HealthyStuff.org tested jewelry for chemicals based on their toxicity or suspected toxicity, persistence, and/or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and bromine and chlorine (PVC) have been linked in animal and some human studies to acute allergies and to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.
HealthyStuff.org measured the presence of these chemicals with an X-ray fluorescence
(XRF) analyzer -- a proven, accurate screening tool of elements in products.
Select products were also tested for total lead and total cadmium by digesting
samples in nitritc acid and analyzing with atomic absorption.
99 pieces of jewelry were tested, from 14 different retailers located in six different states (Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Vermont). Jewelry was purchase in December 2011. Most jewelry purchased was under $10.
Samples were purchase from 14 retailers include Ming 99 Cent City, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Big Lots, Claire's, Forever 21, Glitter, Walmart, H&M, Meijers, Kohl's, Justice, Icing and Hot Topic.
59% of products tested were rated as having HIGH level of concern due the
presence of one or more hazardous chemical detected at high levels
6% of products tested were rated as having a MEDIUM level of concern due
to the detection of one or more hazardous chemicals at medium levels
35% of products tested were rated as having a LOW level of concern due to
the detection of one or more hazardous chemicals at low levels
27 of 99 (27%) of jewelry contained greater than 300 ppm lead in one or more
components. 300 ppm is the CPSC limits of lead in children's products
48 of 99 (49%) of jewelry contained detectable levels of lead
10 of 99 (10%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one
or more components
47 of 99 (47%) of jewelry contained detectable levels of cadmium
A high percentage of products had concentrations greater thean 100 ppm of
the metal allergens chromium (93%) and nickel (30%)
12 of 95 (13%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm arsenic
5 of 95 (5%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm mercury
7 of 95 (7%) of jewelry contained brominate flame retardants (greater than
1,000 ppm bromine)
One-third, 11 of 95 (12%) of jewelry contained PVC (greater than 25,000 ppm
*Note: Not all products were tested for all chemicals. Four products were
only tested for lead and cadmium.
Products with crystal components
Of the 31 components that had lead levels between 41 and 300 ppm, 4 were
from gem/crystal and 27 were from non-gem/crystal
Of the 52 component that had lead levels above 300 ppm, 25 were from gem/crystal
and 27 were from non-gem/crystal
NOTE: HealthyStuff.org is an initial screening of chemicals in products for a handful of hazardous chemicals. There are a number of chemicals of concern that the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) device and HealthyStuff.org cannot detect. For example, there has been much concern recently about bisphenol A, a component of polycarbonate plastic. The XRF device is not able to detect bisphenol A, nor can it identify polycarbonate. In addition, the XRF device cannot detect phthalates, a family of chemicals of concern, although we have used the presence of PVC plastic as a surrogate for the likely presence of phthalates.