Dangerous levels of harmful chemicals in the composition of low-priced jewelery items targeted at youngsters, have been detected by experts who say the toxic chemicals may have serious health implications.
Non-profit environmental safety organisation, The Ecology Center, found lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and arsenic among other highly toxic chemicals, in over half the 99 items taken from branches of Claire's, Forever 21 and H'n'M and other retailers across the United States.
The health issues linked to these substances in past tests on animals and humans comprise acute allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer.
Using X-ray fluorescence, Jeffrey Weidenhamer, Ph.D, Professor of Chemistry at Ashland University, a leading national researcher on metals in jewelery and colleagues, 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, the Daily Mail reported.
"It ends up in the jewelery because it's cheap, it's easy to melt, it makes nice heavy pieces of jewelery 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," Dr Weidenhamer told CBS.
Additionally, 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 concern 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.
Despite statements issued from retailers like Target and Walmart claiming that all jewelery sold is tested according to federal regulations, the researchers discovered that in some stores pieces labelled 'lead free' were completely made of lead.
"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," Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center said.We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately," Gearhart added.