April 25, 2019: Bipartisan bill to protect Californians from toxic jewelry clears key committee

April 25, 2019

Guest Press Release

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Bipartisan legislation to protect Californians, especially children, from jewelry tainted with highly toxic heavy metals sailed through a key committee Wednesday.

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee unanimously passed SB 647, the Safe Jewelry Act, sending the legislation to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

The Safe Jewelry Act, authored by state Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, (D-Los Angeles) and co-sponsored by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Environmental Working Group and the Center for Environmental Health, would dramatically lower the allowable level of lead in jewelry marketed to older teens and adults from as much as 60,000 parts per million, or ppm, to 500 ppm.

The bill would also reduce allowable levels of lead in children’s jewelry from 600 ppm to 100 ppm, and define “children” under the stricter jewelry standard as those 15 years old and younger, instead of the current age range of six and under. The bill would also apply California’s limit on cadmium in children’s jewelry, which is currently set at 300 ppm, to jewelry marketed to children 15 years and younger.  

These changes would create a new jewelry standard in the U.S. The federal government does not impose a lead limit on jewelry intended for people older than 12 years of age and does not restrict jewelry’s cadmium content. California has the fifth-largest economy in the world, so manufacturers often change production standards to comply with California law.

The primary pathway of exposure to lead and cadmium is ingestion. It’s particularly dangerous for children, who tend to put things in their mouths.

The state Department of Public Health says leaded jewelry is a common cause of lead poisoning. Greatly diminishing lead levels in all jewelry – whether it is intended for adult or child use – will reduce children’s access to lead in their homes.

Lead is a highly potent neurotoxin, strongly linked to permanent brain and nervous system damage as well as behavior and learning difficulties, hyperactivity and slowed growth in children.  

Cadmium is a carcinogen and can also cause damage to the lungs and kidneys and weaken bones. A number of animal studies suggest children who are exposed to the heavy metal could be more susceptible to bone damage than adults.

“It is common knowledge that exposure to lead causes real and permanent harm,” said Sen. Mitchell. “What is less well known is that lead is a common ingredient in jewelry. Also less well known is that cadmium is another toxic metal commonly found in jewelry. This bill takes into consideration the exposure to children and adults, the impact on industry, and the feasibility of the limits. It strengthens California’s lead and cadmium jewelry laws by establishing science-backed standards that have demonstrated success in both North America and Europe.” 

“This legislation is an important, feasible measure to protect Californians – especially children, women, and modest-income communities – from the harms of lead and cadmium exposure from jewelry,” said Attorney General Becerra.

“EWG applauds the committee for supporting this important proposal to protect children and all consumers from highly toxic substances,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs at EWG. “Taking concrete steps to protect California’s kids from heavy metals that can cause brain damage and cancer should be something every member of the legislature supports.”

“Yesterday’s committee vote in support of SB 647 is an important step towards strengthening California laws that protect consumers from toxic metals in jewelry,” said Caroline Cox, senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “Children are particularly at risk from lead and cadmium in jewelry, which can lead to brain damage, delayed puberty, reproductive harm, and cancer.”

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.