SEATTLE - Hazardous chemicals have been found in most of the inexpensive children's jewelry samples purchased at random from 14 retailers in six states.
About 100 pieces of jewelry were tested for various toxic chemicals - including lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium - and 58 contained what researchers termed a "high level" of at least one of them.
Kathleen Schuler, co-director of the group Healthy Legacy, says cadmium is a carcinogen, and the health effects of lead exposure are well-known.
"There's a huge body of literature showing that lead contributes to lower IQ, behavior problems, learning and developmental disabilities. Any level of exposure can cause harm to a developing brain, especially for young children."
Schuler says the toxins found in these products can lead to serious health issues for children, from cancer to learning disabilities. Cadmium is a carcinogen, she says, and lead is a brain toxin.
"There's a huge body of literature showing that lead contributes to lower IQ, behavior problems, learning and developmental disabilities. And any level of exposure can cause harm to a developing brain, especially for young children."
None of the samples came from Washington, although many of the same retailers do business here. Washington is one of six states that regulates the use of cadmium in children's products, after the Consumer Product Safety Commission declined to do so in 2010.
Some state and federal laws on the books address toxic metals in children's products, Schuler says, although she points to loopholes.
"The problem is some of these jewelry products aren't in a children's section and they aren't labeled for children, but they have images that are attractive to children. So kids buy them and parents buy them for their kids."
The Washington Legislature is considering a Toxic-Free Kids Act. It encourages but does not require manufacturers to use safer chemicals or alternatives, but is primarily aimed at flame retardants used in fabric for children's clothing.
The test results by jewelry type, brand, and chemical detected are online at healthylegacy.org