It all started on Halloween; everybody dressing up to go trick or treating. Jewelry, buckets, paint, costumes, and candies everywhere! I got home from trick or treating and took off my costume. I noticed that paint from my necklace was on the back of my neck. Also, many of our friends had a rash or a green print on their skin after wearing rings. This got us to thinking, “What’s in our jewelry and is it safe?”

Looks pretty, but could they contain dangerous metals? Credit:

What we discovered was that cheap jewelry imported from China may contain toxic chemicals. According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in 2007, kid’s jewelry from China, made from toxic cadmium was sold at U.S. stores such as Wal-Mart, Justice, and Claire’s. In 2007, .5% of cadmium was being put into jewelry; by 2009 the percentage had increased up to 2.2%. Fortunately, the dangerous jewelry has been removed from stores.

Cadmium (element 48 on the Periodic Table of Elements) is a rare metallic element found in small deposits on almost every continent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Silva Hayes, member of Society of American Mosaic Artists and a writer, cadmium adds weight to jewelry just like lead and is inexpensive to use in manufacturing.

However, cadmium is not the only problem. Chemistry Professor Jeffery Wiedwenhamer of Ashland University in Ohio stated that, in 2007, over a million children’s toys and jewelry have been recalled in the U.S because of high levels of lead in the paint. Wiedwenhamer found that cheap imported jewelry sold at dollar stores contained very high levels of lead concentrations; there is no exact amount of lead concentrations that has been reported. His studies claimed that lead in the jewelry from the leaded solder was recovered from electronic waste (e-waste). E-waste is old electronic products that have been recycled with the metals taken out.

In a report by in March of 2012, a project was initiated by a Michigan-based environmental group called the Ecology Center, expensive jewelry also contains toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine, and mercury. In the study they used an X-ray florescence analyzer and found that much expensive and cheap jewelry contain toxic chemicals. The toxic chemicals that are found in the jewelry have been linked to humans and animal birth defects, liver disease, and cancer.

Wiedwenhamer was also found that in 12 of 103 (10%) of the charms from bracelets and necklace contained high levels of lead and cadmium. Three flip flop bracelet charms sold at Wal-Mart contained between 84 and 86 percent cadmium,” reports Wiedwenhamer.

         According to the DTSC, children 6 years old and under are most at risk from lead. Their bodies are growing quickly.  Also, jewelry that contains lead is much worse for children than adults because children like to put stuff in their mouths where the toxic substances can be absorbed into their bodies at dangerous levels.  

Some ways to help when you are exposed to cadmium are if you inhale cadmium, immediately move or fresh air. If you eat cadmium wash your mouth out with water. Use ipecac syrup or some other means to make you vomit. Ipecac syrup, found in most drug stores, should be in each medicine cabinet in case of emergencies. If you touch cadmium, wash with soap and water for at least 15 minutes, the Delaware Health and Social Service stated.

         National Library of Medicine states, some of the other metals in jewelry often cause something called “contact dermatitis”: a condition when skin becomes red or inflamed after contact with a metal. Once exposed to a metal that can cause contact dermatitis, an allergic or irritated skin symptom usually starts within 6 to 24 hours.  The rash or irritated skin usually doesn’t spread. If you continue to wear the jewelry right it can cause symptoms such as itchy, dry, irritated, and flaky or scaly skin.  

Earrings can also cause contact dermatitis. Marina Peredo, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York states, “Earrings that have wires or posts comprised of nickel, copper or cadmium can cause an infection in the ears.”

According to Peredo, you can prevent rashes by avoiding wearing the jewelry that caused the rash. You also need to avoid scratching the areas with the rash, which can cause the rash to bleed, lead to skin infections. To prevent contact dermatitis allergic reactions you should not wear earrings that contain nickel, cadmium, lead, or copper. Some of the non-allergic metals are stainless steal, gold, and sterling silver. Another way you can prevent rashes and lead poising is, when you’re buying the jewelry, look for tags that say, “lead free”, and “nickel free”. Copper and cadmium can be checked as well.

We surveyed students at Farnsley Middle School and that 42 out of 148, or 28%, of the student’s have gotten rashes and other skin problems from jewelry. One person had a rash for a week from a ring. Another student found that their skin turned green. We found out that the ring came from China. Rings are the jewelry that caused the majority of skin issues according to our survey.

Cassidy Whited and Natalie Zamora

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  1. I have seen a lot of jewelry that leave marks on the skin after taking them off. Plus i always thought that it was toxic but i guess i was right.

  2. This was very interesting I will be more cautious about wearing jewelry because of the toxic chemicals in them just to be more safe.

  3. thanks this was very informal. I never knew there were toxics in plastic jewelry. now I know why my mom never wanted me to wear it

  4. Hello , My friend and I wrote This Artical and I am very pleased with it (: , thanks for all the comments and likes ! I feel very proud knowing im informing atleast some people about jewelry.

  5. I just wanted to thank everyone who is liking and commenting on this article. It really means a lot to know that Natilie and me are helping people in some way, even if it is in a small way. Thank you!