Chemical tests find toxic bling in Region 8

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Jewelry sold at retail stores around the country might be hazardous to the health of consumers, according to a recent study by an environmental group.

The Ecology Center and analyzed 99 pieces of jewelry from stores such as Walmart, Kohl's, Forever 21, H&M, Hot Topic and Target. Researchers found more than half of the jewelry tested contained high levels of cadmium, arsenic and lead, all chemical elements the Consumer Product Safety Commission considers hazards.

Jonesboro School of Art owner Tanya Eddy said she buys glass beads for the jewelry-making class at her school because of the risk. "Working with kids a lot, I try to make sure there's not anything with lead in it. That was always a worry," she said.

To avoid the risks of buying inexpensive, but potentially hazardous accessories, Brenda Mason said she shops only at jewelry stores for high-end and costume jewelry.

Sissy's Log Cabin manager Mark Sanders said shelling out a little more cash on the front end is a pay off.  "With anything you purchase you want to get a really nice quality. You want the diamonds to be right. You want the 14 carat gold or 18 carat gold, the platinum, whatever the metal is, needs to be substantial. It needs to be accurate."

Sanders said there are options available on both ends of the jewelry spectrum. "The sky's the limit. If you want to spend several million dollars on a piece, we'll have that. If you want to spend $30 on a piece, we'll have that as well," he said.

Region 8 News tested several pieces of costume jewelry at stores in Jonesboro. With the help of environmental science program faculty at Arkansas State University, we tested samples for the same cancer-causing elements listed in the Ecology Center report, cadmium, arsenic, and lead.

"In one sample, we had one very small concentration of lead, and in two samples we had an extremely small concentration of arsenic," said ASU professor of electrical engineering Dr. Robert Engelken.

Of the six samples, sample D, contained trace amounts of lead. Samples E and F contained a small amount of arsenic.  Many of the samples had high amounts of copper, carbon, and oxygen.

"The presence of a high carbon and oxygen content would imply plastic type materials in many of these cases," said Dr. Engelken.

"My personal opinion is that what we saw would mean that the jewelry would be perfectly safe for wearing in a normal sense, but parents might still want to be cautious in making sure that young children did not put these in their mouths."

In April 2010, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg authored the Safe Chemicals Act, or S. 847, to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 by increasing safety measures and education about the chemicals used in household products.

Senator Lautenberg said when he introduced the Safe Chemicals Act:

"Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children's bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My 'Safe Chemicals Act' will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals."

Click here for the full text of the bill.

Click here for updates about the Safe Chemicals Act and a list of senators who co-sponsored the bill.

Arkansas Senators to contact:

Senator John Boozman (R)

320 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510

(202) 224-4843

Senator Mark Pryor (D)

255 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510

(202) 224-2353