Claire”s, Forever 21, and H&M costume jewellery contains high levels of dangerous chemicals

Pretty, shiny and a major health risk: How scientists have found high levels of dangerous chemicals in costume jewellery

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UPDATED:

21:03 GMT, 19 March 2012

The saying goes, 'beauty is pain' but now, according to recent scientific studies, accessorising with cheap costume jewellery can actually be dangerous.

After running a series of tests on a variety of low-cost jewellery items targeted at youngsters, non-profit environmental safety organisation, The Ecology Center, found alarming levels of harmful chemicals in their composition.

Lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and arsenic among other highly toxic chemicals, were detected in over half the 99 items taken from branches of Claire's, Forever 21 and H&M and other retailers across the United States.

Fatal attraction: Scientists have found high levels of toxic metals in cheap high street jewellery targeted at children

Fatal attraction: Scientists have found high levels of toxic metals in cheap high street jewellery targeted at children that have dangerous health implications

The health issues linked to these substances in past tests on animals and humans include acute allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer.

Jeffrey Weidenhamer, Ph.D, Professor of Chemistry at Ashland University, a leading national researcher on metals in jewellery collaborated with the Ecology Center on the study.

Using X-ray fluorescence they
identified which metals were present in the items and found consistently
high levels of one or more toxic chemical.

Of
the 99 pieces tested, 25 per cent contained levels of lead over 300
parts per million which exceeds the Consumer Product Safety Commission's
limit of lead permitted in the manufacturing of children's products.

Lies: Pieces that claim to be lead free contained alarming levels of carcinogenic cadmium and some were made almost entirely of lead despite the label

Lies: Pieces that claim to be lead free contained alarming levels of carcinogenic cadmium and some were made almost entirely of lead despite the label

Dr Weidenhamer told CBS: 'It ends up in the jewellery because it's cheap, it's easy to melt, it makes nice heavy pieces of jewellery and in fact we've found in a lot of the pieces we've tested that are 95 per cent lead by weight, that the alloy composition is almost identical to what you'd find in lead acid car batteries.'

Furthermore, ten per cent of the
items contained known carcinogen cadmium, most likely because there have
been no restrictions on its use.

According
to Dr Weidenhamer, the biggest worry is that children put the necklace
pendants and rings in their mouths, chipping and wearing away the thin
protective coating.

Over time, the levels of cadmium or lead to which a child could be exposed this way is 'quite dangerous', he said.

Expert: Scientist Jeffrey Weidenhamer, Ph.D, said the main worry is that children erode any thin protective coating by mouthing pendants and other items

Expert: Scientist Jeffrey Weidenhamer, Ph.D, said the main worry is that children erode any thin protective coating by mouthing pendants and other items

Despite statements issued from retailers like Target and Walmart claiming that all jewellery sold is tested according to federal regulations, the researchers found that in some stores pieces labeled 'lead free' were made entirely of lead.

Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center said: 'There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children's jewelry, to be made with some of the most well studied and dangerous substances on the planet.

'We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.'

Six states have moved to regulate cadmium in the absence of federal involvement, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Maryland.

PROMINENT HARMFUL CHEMICALS AND THEIR EFFECTS

LEAD

The impact of even the smallest traces of lead on brain development in children includes irreversible learning and developmental problems leading to to lower IQ scores, delayed learning and shorter attention spans
The EPA has listed lead as a probable human carcinogen

CADMIUM

Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen, associated with lung and prostate cancerCadmium exposure is associated in animal studies with developmental effects, including possible decreases in birth weight, delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and altered behavior
Exposure to cadmium can result in bone loss and increased blood pressureAcute toxicity from ingestion of high levels of cadmium can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and deathAcute toxicity from inhalation of high levels of cadmium can result in symptoms similar to metal fume fever and severe gastroenteritis from high levels of cadmium ingestion

CHROMIUM

Laboratory studies indicate that Cr (VI) may cause birth defects, and reproductive problems particularly in males
Higher levels of exposure have caused asthma attacks and nasal irritation in people

MERCURY

All forms of mercury can affect the kidneys
Organic, inorganic, and metallic mercury are toxic to the nervous system, each affecting different regions of the brain
Young children are more sensitive to mercury and may be exposed to mercury via the mother’s body to the fetus or through breast milk

ARSENIC

Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogenThere is strong evidence that it is linked to lung, skin, and bladder cancer
Inorganic arsenic may also cause skin irritation, skin color changes, blood disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and hormone disruption
Preliminary data suggest that inorganic arsenic may interfere with normal fetal development and cause deficits in brain development and intelligence
Preliminary studies have correlated type 2 diabetes with low-level arsenic consumption, implying that drinking low levels of arsenic may lead to type 2 diabetes