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Testing finds toxic cadmium in adult jewelry at some chain stores

After a 2010 scandal involving cadmium in some children's jewelry of Chinese manufacture, several states outlawed the metal in kids' products -- but not for adults. By 2012, it seemed the metal was no longer being used in children's jewelry. However, the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health recently tested adult jewelry from three national manufacturers and found at least 40 percent -- and the majority over 90 percent -- cadmium.

Cadmium is a heavy metal that can build up in the body. After prolonged exposure, cadmium can damage the bones and kidneys. It causes cancer and reproductive health problems. There is also some evidence it can also be absorbed through the skin, and it triggers psoriasis and skin rashes.

The Center for Environmental Health had items of jewelry from three major chain stores tested. Of those, 31 tested positive for at least 40 percent cadmium. Most of the items were at least 90 percent cadmium. The items were purchased in San Francisco-area Ross, Nordstrom Rack and Papaya stores. Each chain operates stores in multiple states, and it would be customary for the same items to be offered at all stores.

The exact health risk is unknown. The researchers did not address whether tiny amounts of cadmium might be shed during handling and wear of the jewelry, and even if they had it might not be clear what level of exposure could be expected. Also left unclear is the percentage of items overall that might contain cadmium.

Ross, where most of the tainted items were purchased, has said it had "addressed this issue with our supplier" but would not say whether it had pulled any items from shelves. The brands involved at Ross were Tacera and Vibe Sportswear, and some of the jewelry may have been included with blouses or dresses.

A spokesperson for Papaya said the retailer had recalled all the affected products and stopped buying from the Chinese manufacturer of the products. It added that all of its suppliers must warrant that they comply with legal requirements. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has no current rules in effect prohibiting cadmium in jewelry worn by adults.

A spokesperson for Nordstrom told the Associated Press that the company is "reaching out to these vendors to make them aware of the situation and get more information on these items."

Under Tennessee product liability law, manufacturers, distributers and retailers may be strictly liable for any harm their products cause when the products are defective or unreasonably dangerous. Other states have similar standards. It is not clear whether jewelry products made with cadmium would meet these standards or not. If you believe you have been sickened or injured by cadmium-tainted jewelry or other consumer products, contact an attorney right away.

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