EcoWaste Coalition Pitches for Legal Limits on Hazardous Substances in Jewelry

Fashion and religious jewelry with high concentrations of cadmium and lead.

Fashion and religious jewelry without detectable cadmium and lead.
A watch group on toxic chemicals in products
and wastes today urged the government, the jewelry industry and the civil
society to craft a regulation that will restrict the content of hazardous
substances in jewelry products.
The EcoWaste Coalition made the pitch for such a
regulation after detecting high concentrations of cadmium and lead in cheap
earrings,  bracelets, necklaces, rings
and rosaries bought from retailers in Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.
“Consumers are literally buying poison ornaments to adorn
their bodies or express their faith without them knowing it because of the
absence of legal restrictions on hazardous substances in jewelry and the lack
of mandatory labeling information,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the
EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“As toxic jewelry products can pose risk to human health
and the environment, we request the authorities to prepare the required
regulation that will set legal limits on cadmium, lead and other chemicals of
concern in jewelry with inputs from the industry and the civil society,” he
The group conducted its latest product screening
following the market withdrawal of some jewelry items in France, Germany,
Latvia and Sweden that contain levels of cadmium, lead, mercury or nickel in
violation of national and European Union regulations as reported in RAPEX, or
the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food consumer products.
EU regulations restrict cadmium and lead in jewelry at
0.01% and  0.05% by weight, respectively,
or 100 parts per million (ppm) for cadmium and 500 ppm for lead. According to
EU, “lead is harmful to human health and hazardous to the environment,” while
“cadmium causes damage to organs and may cause cancer.”
Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence device, the EcoWaste
Coalition found 23 of the 45 jewelry samples laden with extremely high amounts
of cadmium and lead that would make them illegal to make, import or sell in the
Among the most toxic pieces found were a crucifix pendant
with 339,600 ppm lead, a rosary with a component that has 273,600 ppm lead, a
pair of red earrings with 248,500 ppm lead, several metallic rings with over
100,000 ppm lead, a necklace with a medicine capsule-like adornment that has
more than 100,000 ppm lead, a necklace with 54,600 ppm cadmium and yellow
smiley ring with 48,600 ppm cadmium.
‘While most of the toxic articles we found are cheap
adult jewelry, it is possible for these items to get into children’s hands or
mouths, especially if they break and a child swallow a broken piece with high
levels of cadmium or lead,” Dizon said.
According to a fact sheet on “Dangerous Metals in
Jewelry” published by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI), “the greatest risk
with cadmium and lead is if children ingest it orally, for example by sucking
the jewelry or managing to swallow it. There is also a risk that cadmium and
lead can detach itself from the jewelry and end up on the hands and then enter
the mouth via food.”
“There have been cases of children in US getting poisoned
through the ingestion of lead-containing jewelry,” Dizon pointed out.
As reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), “in 2003, a 4-year-old child swallowed a piece of jewelry.
The child became ill because the jewelry was made of lead.”  This prompted the recall of 150 million
pieces of toy jewelry sold in vending machines in US.
The CDC also stated that “in 2006, a child died from
acute lead poisoning after eating a heart-shaped metallic charm containing
lead. The charm had been attached to a metal bracelet provided as a free gift
with the purchase of shoes manufactured by Reebok International Ltd.” This
tragedy led to the recall of 300,000 heart-shaped charm bracelets.