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Cadmium concerns: Saks and Aeropostale pull jewelry

AP Photo/Charles Margulis. This photo provided by Charles Margulis, shows a necklace from the retailer Aeropostale on Feb. 1, 2010 in Oakland, Calif.
AP Photo/Charles Margulis. This photo provided by Charles Margulis, shows a necklace from the retailer Aeropostale on Feb. 1, 2010 in Oakland, Calif.

AP Photo/Charles Margulis

The teen fashion chain Aeropostale (air-uh-post-AL) and outlet stores of the upscale Saks Fifth Avenue are pulling from shelves necklaces that tests showed have high levels of the toxic metal cadmium, according to a report today from the Associated Press (AP).

Aeropostale also says that from now on, no level of cadmium will be acceptable in its jewelry - and that suppliers will have to prove products are clean.

Earlier this month, concerns about the heavy metal cadmium in kids' jewelry were raised, and now adult jewelry is also on the radar. The Center for Environmental Health tested adult jewelry, and results have raised concerns.

The center said it began lab testing adult jewelry for cadmium after an AP investigation reported last month that pieces of cheap children's jewelry imported from China contained levels of cadmium of up to 91 percent of their total content.

The Center for Environmental Health purchased adult jewelry at retail stores in California for testing. Cadmium was detected in jewelry purchases from stores that included Saks Fifth Avenue, Aeropostale, and Justice.

Is the amount of cadmium in the adult jewelry enough to raise concerns? That is a difficult question. The U.S. EPA has set toxicity values for inhalation (via the lungs) and ingestion (via the mouth, eating or drinking) of cadmium. For children, putting such jewelry in their mouth likely increases risks as compared to adults. Children can also be more sensitive to toxic effects of chemical exposures.

The health concerns for cadmium include kidney and bone problems, especially from ingestion or from tobacco smoke (another reason to stop smoking). Cancer of the respiratory tract (including lungs) is a concern particularly for factory workers who are exposed to cadmium.

In its analysis, the Center for Environmental Health did an initial screening of 97 jewelry items, and high levels of cadmium were detected in 7 pieces. Four of these were sent to a Chicago-based lab, Stat Analysis, for detailed analysis, with the other three planned for later analysis, according to center spokesman Charles Margulis.

Does that mean adults should not be concerned? The Center for Environmental Health doesn't think so. "Our legal action sends a strong signal to industry that we will not stand by while they play toxic flavor of the month with jewelry," said Michael Green, the group's executive director. "Cadmium is toxic at any age. There is no excuse for cadmium in any jewelry, and we intend to eliminate this health threat to women and children," he said.

Cadmium is used primarily in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, as well as in pigments, electroplating, and plastic. Currently there is no limit under federal law on cadmium in jewelry sold in the U.S.

For more info: Center for Environmental Health; U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry cadmium toxicity information.

Suggestions, comments, questions? Anything about environmental health that you would like to know about? Email your Chicago Environmental Health Examiner at Follow me on Twitter @chicagoenviron.


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