Tests show toxin in chain stores’ jew­elry

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By Ariel Tu The Associated Press

LOS AN­GE­LES » Jew­elry with the toxic metal cad­mium is show­ing up on the shelves of na­tional re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Ross, Nord­strom Rack and Pa­paya, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased test re­sults.

Anal­y­sis done for the non­profit Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Health re­vealed some jew­elry sold with women’s dresses and shirts was nearly pure cad­mium, which can cause can­cer and re­pro­duc­tive harm af­ter pro­longed ex­po­sure.

Con­sumer ad­vo­cates were hope­ful cad­mium had dis­ap­peared from the U.S. jew­elry mar­ket fol­low­ing changes prompted by a 2010 Associated Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion that found Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers were us­ing the metal to make kids’ jew­elry. States in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia out­lawed cad­mium in chil­dren’s jew­elry, and test­ing by the cen­ter found the chem­i­cal had vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared from jew­elry by 2012.

Over time, cad­mium ac­cu­mu­lates in the body and can dam­age the kid­neys and bones. Most ex­po­sure hap­pens by ingest­ing small amounts or by breath­ing it, most com­monly through to­bacco, which can con­tain cad­mium.

No laws ad­dress cad­mium in adult jew­elry, how­ever, and last year the cen­ter de­cided to check those prod­ucts. Lab test­ing found 31 adult jew­elry items pur­chased from re­tail stores were at least 40 per­cent cad­mium, and most were more than 90 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to re­sults shared ex­clu­sively with the AP.

Cal­i­for­nia’s law al­lows nomore than 0.03 per­cent cad­mium in chil­dren’s jew­elry. The pre­cise health risk from the tested jew­elry is un­clear be­cause re­searchers did not as­sess whether small amounts shed when the jew­elry is han­dled and worn.

Over time, cad­mium ac­cu­mu­lates in the body and can dam­age the kid­neys and bones. Most ex­po­sure hap­pens by ingest­ing small amounts or by breath­ing it, most com­monly through to­bacco, which can con­tain cad­mium. Re­searchers also have doc­u­mented some ab­sorp­tion through skin con­tact, though the phe­nom­e­non is not well-stud­ied.

Michael Har­but, a prac­tic­ing doc­tor who as a univer­sity pro­fes­sor has re­searched cad­mium’s can­cer-caus­ing prop­er­ties, noted that con­tact can trig­ger skin rashes in­clud­ing pso­ri­a­sis.

“Cad­mi­u­mis bad,” said Har­but, who teaches at Michi­gan State Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Hu­man Medicine. “Given a choice be­tween wear­ing some­thing with cad­mium in it, or wear­ing some--

thing with­out cad­mium in it, I would take the prod­uct with­out cad­mium.”

The Oak­land-based non­profit bought all the test sam­ples in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area this year or last. The ex­tent to which con­tam­i­nated jew­elry is in stores else­where isn’t clear, though a na­tional re­tailer would not typ­i­cally limit a prod­uct to just one re­gion.

The cen­ter said the prob­lemshould not be un­der­es­ti­mated be­cause of the lim­ited mar­ket sam­pling.

“If you’re the per­son that buys and is wear­ing that jew­elry, you don’t re­ally care whether it’s a com­mon prob­le­mor a rare prob­lem,” said Caro­line Cox, se­nior sci­en­tist at the cen­ter. “You have a prob­lem.”

Brent Cleave­land, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Fash­ion Jew­elry and Ac­ces­sories Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, said he does not be­lieve the test re- sults sug­gest a larger prob­lem. Most ma­jor re­tail­ers have a strin­gent sys­tem­for test­ing and an­a­lyz­ing what they sell, he said.

Most of the tainted items were sold at Ross, which op­er­ates more than 1,400 stores in 38 states. One pendant from a neck­lace chain was 100 per­cent cad­mium, ac­cord­ing to the test­ing.

In a writ­ten state­ment, Ross said it is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing its cus­tomers and has “ad­dressed this is­sue with our sup­plier.” The re­tailer would not say whether it pulled sus­pect jew­elry from stores.

The brands found with high cad­mium lev­els in Ross stores in­clude Tac­era and Vibe Sports­wear.

Xin­wei Xie, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at Trend Tex­tile Inc., which owns Tac­era, de­clined to com­ment when reached by phone. The Skate Group Inc., which owns Vibe Sports­wear, did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment.

Pa­paya said it con­sid­ers cad­mium in its prod­ucts a se­ri­ous prob­lem. It op­er­ates more than 100 re­tail lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide.

Steven Kim, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Pa­paya, said the com­pany has re­called the prod­ucts where con­tam­i­na­tion was found and stopped buy­ing from the­man­u­fac­turer in China.

“Our man­u­fac­tur­ers are re­quired to rep­re­sent and war­rant that their prod­ucts are in le­gal com­pli­ance,” Kim said. “Pa­paya is very strict and stops do­ing busi­ness with any man­u­fac­turer which fails to com­ply.”

Nord­strom spokes­woman Emily Sterken said the com­pany is “reach­ing out to these ven­dors to make the­maware of the sit­u­a­tion and get more in­for­ma­tion on these items.”

The Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Health has long used Cal­i­for­nia law to force com­pa­nies to re­duce lev­els of harm­ful­ma­te­ri­als in con­sumer prod­ucts, in­clud­ing cad­mium and lead in jew­elry.

Un­der the state’s Propo­si­tion 65, busi­nesses must in­form con­sumers about sig­nif­i­cant ex­po­sures to chem­i­cals that cause can­cer or other re­pro­duc­tive harm. The non­profit has set­tled Propo­si­tion 65 claims against 36 com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Gap Inc. and Tar­get Corp., which agreed to not sell jew­elry with more than 0.03 per­cent cad­mium.

That limit for chil­dren’s jew­elry took ef­fect af­ter the AP re­ported in 2010 that some Chi­nese jew­elry man­u­fac­tur­ers were sub­sti­tut­ing cad­mium for lead, the use of which Congress clamped down on fol­low­ing a string of im­port­ed­prod­uct safety scan­dals.

The jew­elry in­dus­try helped write vol­un­tary U.S. stan­dards fol­low­ing the AP in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the U. S. Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion did not man­date any cad­mium lim­its.

CEN­TER FOR EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL HEALTH VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Health in Oak­land shows jew­elry items loaded with the toxic metal cad­mium, some of it nearly pure, the agency bought from the shelves of na­tional re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Ross, Nord­strom Rack and Pa­paya.

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