Policies & Issues

CA Law Tightens Restrictions on Lead, Cadmium in Jewelry

Policies & IssuesOct 10, 2019

CA Law Tightens Restrictions on Lead, Cadmium in Jewelry

They’re the country’s strictest limits of the toxic metals in jewelry.

Sacramento, Calif.—California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill that places tighter restrictions on jewelry containing some toxic metals.

Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) introduced SB 647 in February. It was co-sponsored by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Environmental Health.

It strengthens California’s lead and cadmium jewelry laws by establishing science-backed standards.

Lead and cadmium are toxic metals that can cause severe and chronic health effects including neurological impairments, kidney damage, seizures, comas and death.

According to various online sources, lead and cadmium are sometimes used in jewelry components because they are cheaper, such as lead us in clasps or cadmium on the backing of stones in costume jewelry. Lead also can be found in some vintage and antique jewelry pieces, used as an alloy, in some enamel or because it also was once widely used in solder for jewelry repair.

The new law lowers the lead limits for jewelry marketed to adults and older teens from as much as 60,000 parts per million prior down to 500 ppm.

It also lowers the allowable lead level in children’s jewelry from up to 600 ppm allowed prior to 100 ppm and amends the standard to apply to jewelry intended for children 14 and under, instead of the current six and under.

Lastly, it adopts a cadmium standard for paint and surface coating of children’s jewelry to less than 75 ppm.

The law will go into effect in January.

It imposes the nation’s strictest limits on the amount of lead and cadmium allowed in jewelry sold, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Attorney General Becerra said: “California’s laws regulating toxic metals in jewelry are now the most comprehensive in the world. With this law, our state continues to lead the way with advanced standards that reflect current science and address the danger that these toxic metals pose to our communities.”

According to the Environmental Working Group, the federal government currently doesn’t impose a lead limit on jewelry made for people older than 12 years of age or restrict jewelry’s cadmium concentration.

It also noted that because California has the fifth-largest economy in the world, manufacturers often change production standards to comply with the state’s laws, which means this new one could, in effect, create a new national standard.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 10 to reflect the ways in which lead and cadmium

can be used in jewelry.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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