California’s efforts to crack down on toxic metals such as lead and cadmium in jewelry have proved victorious for the state’s attorney general, but a senate bill to reduce the amount of toxic materials in accessories such as earrings and bracelets also faced a setback this week. According to a report in the Merced Sun Star, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that five jewelry makers reached an $83,362-settlement with the Department of Justice agreeing to stop selling accessories that contained high levels of lead and cadmium.
High Levels of Toxic Metals
The Southern California companies – Peer JS, Sun’s Trading, Andrea Bijoux, Seven Star and Le Belle – knowingly sold the toxic jewelry, the attorney general said. In some cases, Becerra said, the jewelry exceeded the legal amount by 1,000 times. In addition, one of the companies misled consumers by labeling jewelry as “lead-free” even though it contained illegal lead levels.
Becerra is also supporting a bill by Senator Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, which would further restrict the amount of lead and cadmium that is allowed in jewelry. Senate Bill 647 would reduce the amount of lead in jewelry by 0.05 percent of lead and limit cadmium to no more than 0.03 percent by weight for jewelry components and 0.0075 percent by weight for surface coating. While lead adds heft to these accessories, cadmium can enhance the appearance of these products, which are often marketed to children. However, Senate Bill 647 has become stalled and is not likely to be taken up in the current legislative session.
The Need for More Stringent Regulations
Both lead and cadmium can put children at risk for serious health issues. According to a study led by Harvard University researchers, children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education. In children, lead can harm production of blood cells and the absorption of calcium needed for strong bones and teeth, muscle movements, and the work of nerves and blood vessels. High lead levels can cause brain and kidney damage.
While it would be wonderful if manufacturers of these products put the well-being of consumers before profits, we know, as product defect lawyers, that product manufacturers are not going to do that unless the law requires them to do so. This is why laws that protect consumers are extremely important. Without these laws we would not have safer vehicles, tires or toys.