Imported Chinese Products Continue To Contain Lead and Cadmium: This Time Its Children’s Jewelry

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


The occasional, and in many ways perennial, Chinese, Mexican, and Chilian export containing hazardous material continues to be a concern for child safety. This is often the result of lackluster quality controls overseas and indifference or lack of initiative on the part of children’s toy wholesalers to test products accordingly. It is a problem associated with “Just in Time” shipping methods where a domestic company simply relies on foreign manufacturers to label, ship, and distribute products to market without actually taking possession of the items to perform quality control. The situation is exasperated by lack of oversight by foreign governments and especially from the manufacturers themselves.

Time and money is needed for toy companies in the US to place quality control technicians overseas, and the temptation to avoid this cost and logistic leads to children receiving harmful doses of heavy metals and pathogens.

The latest find comes from children’s jewelry.


The Washington Department of Ecology is charged with, among other duties, reviewing children’s toys and clothing for signs of toxic contamination.

In a random sample performed on products from differing retailers, inspectors found some troubling discoveries.

A recent press release reads as follows:

OLYMPIA – Testing by the Washington Department of Ecology revealed high levels of the heavy metals cadmium and lead in several necklaces sold as accessories packaged with girls’ dresses.

Ecology recently tested 27 pieces of jewelry packaged with clothing and found five that contained very high levels of lead or cadmium. Ecology also tested 132 items of children’s jewelry sold separately, none of which were found to contain concerning levels of these metals. (See the full report.)

Under Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act, items intended for children cannot contain more than 40 parts per million of cadmium. In four pieces of jewelry sold packaged with a girl’s clothing item, Ecology’s testing found cadmium at levels up to 984,000 parts per million, meaning the item was 98 percent cadmium. Ecology has notified the manufacturers of the jewelry that they are in violation of Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act and could be required to take corrective action or be subject to penalties.

One separate necklace sold with a dress contained 50,100 parts per million lead, meaning it was 5 percent lead. Federal law preempts Washington’s standards for lead in children’s jewelry, so Ecology referred its test results to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“There is simply no reason to have high levels of toxic metals like cadmium and lead in children’s products,” said Darin Rice, Ecology’s hazardous waste and toxics reduction program manager. “We tested a wide range of jewelry and most of it was within acceptable levels. A few manufacturers, however, are not following the law and are putting children at risk.”

Both cadmium and lead accumulate in bone and soft tissues in the body, remain in the body for a very long time and can cause serious health effects, especially in children. Cadmium can lead to cardiovascular, skeletal and kidney damage. Lead affects child brain development, and damages the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. Both of these metals are toxic at very low doses.

Swallowing one of the items found to contain cadmium or lead is the greatest concern, although mouthing an item or frequent hand-to-mouth contact after handling a decorative piece could also lead to exposure. Simply wearing the jewelry is unlikely to result in significant exposure. If you purchased one of these products, Ecology recommends returning the item to the store or safely disposing of it in your household trash.

“Cadmium and lead are two chemicals of major public health concern and we support efforts to reduce exposure to kids in Washington,” said Lauren Jenks, director of the Office of Environmental Public Health Sciences at the Washington State Department of Health. “The chemicals impact their developing brains and bodies and they are at greater risk for exposure because they’re more likely to put items like jewelry in their mouths.”

The alleged hazardous jewelry items are as follows:

Product: Caged Back ¾-sleeve Shift Dress
Description: gold-colored key charm sold with coral dress
Brand: Soulmates Girl
Manufacturer: Big Strike, Inc.
Test result: cadmium – 397,000 ppm (39.7%)
Product: KW Ivory Moto Dress
Description: bow charm sold with cream dress and jacket
Brand: Beautees
Manufacturer: KWDZ Manufacturing, LLC
Test result: cadmium – 534,000 ppm (53.4 %)
Product: Lace to Mesh Dress
Description: necklace sold with gold, black, and white dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium – 984,000 ppm (98.4%)
Product: All Over Floral Dress
Description: necklace sold with lace cream-colored dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium – 931,000 ppm (93.1 %)
Product: Sparkle Glitter Knit Popover Dress
Description: necklace sold with black and pink dress
Brand: Xtraordinary
Manufacturer: SWAT, Inc.
Test result: lead – 50,100 parts per million (ppm) (5.1 %)

It is not only the safety to the children that is at issue, as if that isn’t enough in of itself, but rather the trust in an industry. If trust dissolves in the minds of many consumers they will abandon the market segment. While this is certainly obvious but there is a point at which some businesses will risk potential discovery if lower costs are attractive enough.

What is even more worrying is the lack of initiative in some government circles to tackle the problem. While lead levels are regulated in children’s toys cadmium is not at the federal level. It begs the question where manufacturers overseas are simply gaming the system. They know that lead contamination can lead to sanctions but since cadmium is not specifically regulated federally they push it through, though cadmium is toxic just the same. It is certainly ethical bankruptcy.

Yet, rather than playing the cat-and-mouse game to ban one substance which will then be replaced by another substance. I assume Congress, as with any sane person, was folly to just assume that manufacturers would not put obvious toxins into toys, but we do not live in benevolent times where we have the luxury to rely upon reason alone.

By Darren Smith


Washington State Department of Ecology

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

28 thoughts on “Imported Chinese Products Continue To Contain Lead and Cadmium: This Time Its Children’s Jewelry”

  1. @PhillyT

    There just isn’t enough money, let alone people, to provide social services for the hood. On top of that, there is no guarantee that social programs will do any good. As more than one black person has said, “n****rs are n****rs because they want to be.” Schools are there, and they don’t utilize them. Birth control is available, and they don’t use it. They already know that selling drugs, and killing people is wrong, but they do it. They already know that if they are felons, they aren’t supposed to have guns, but they do anyway.

    Frankly, I would just cut off the benefits, except maybe for food stamps and medicaid, and it would be a nightmare for 10 or 20 years, but I bet you would see the illegitimate birth rate drastically decline, and the marriage rate go up. What else do you do? We have been the “OH, this low income apt bldg is a mess! Let’s tear it down and build a new one!” and the old “OH look! The stairwell at this school has rust on it! How can these poor little children ever learn in such a bldg? Let’s tear down this school and build a new one!”

    And then same thing happens all over again. This is the 10 year anniversary of this fine article:

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. Olly. All you have is the “I know you are but what am I?” defense. Not very sophisticated. Or smart.

    Squeaky, as usual I can find something to agree with in what you say. Some social programs have created dependency, because they were poorly crafted and allowed to go on and on after their expiration date without proper analysis and reform.

    But the dominant white culture did harm to the African American community in a hundred ways. From pouring drugs and guns into crowded neighborhoods where unemployment is high; housing we built but never let anyone own, jams people in like sardines; let the police run rampant and use the community as a judicial ATM machine; drug busts are focused on them disproportionately as we know for a FACT that drug use is the same or higher in white communities. And so on. Then of course we point fingers at them for failing. The children grow up with PTSD, hungry, stressed, and grandma sends them to school without a coat.

    But you go too far, as always. We all built this together, dysfunctional, racist white society. We built that. And your side helped as much if not more than mine. Most regressive republicans idea of reform is to cut benefits, walk away and tell people to behave. That is high hypocrisy.

  3. Karen S

    It is not as if government CAN’T be held accountable. Holding the government accountable requires both knowledge and effort. The same principle holds true in the private sector. Especially large organizations. Try holding a large bank or insurance company accountable for their mistakes. It often is lots of work. Lots of times they are not held accountable and things get swept under the rug. The private sector is not that much different than the public sector in that regard.

    This country needs an educated (not brainwashed) citizenry that actively participates in government in a positive way, even when they disagree with one another.

    Today there is a group of people who say that government is evil. (Whether those people say that for their own economic benefit or genuinely believe that is a topic for another day. ) I strongly disagree. The way I see it, government is no better or worse than we make it. it is made up of people, same as the private sector.

    The Grover Norquists and Ted Cruzes of this country, the political hostage takers, are the melanoma on the skin that holds our body politic together. It’s very easy to sit at your desk and complain about the “libtards” (do we call people born between July 23 and August 22 “leotards”?) or the “rethuglicans” than it is to go out and work to make things better. Easier to throw bombs than build bridges.

    All of us might do well to look in the mirror when we ask whose fault it is that things are the way they are.

  4. @Olly

    PhillyT or should I say “Feel-y T” also misses the failures of government in the social arena, to wit, from a book review of PLEASE STOP HELPING US: HOW LIBERALS MAKE IT HARDER FOR BLACKS TO SUCCEED
    By Jason L. Riley:

    Mr. Riley argues convincingly that liberal initiatives intended to assist blacks have hurt them more than they have helped. Social-welfare programs of the 1960s helped wreck the black nuclear family and make socioeconomic self-independence undesirable.

    Mr. Riley provides a further contribution to our public discourse on race by broadening the window of black history beyond the 1960s. Most commentaries on black American progress begin in the modern civil rights era, as though black achievement before this time period either did not exist or is too insignificant to be discussed at great length. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson’s argument in his 2010 book “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” captured this tendency: “Forty years ago, after major cities from coast to coast had gone up in flames, black equaled poor . Over the next three decades — as civil rights laws banned discrimination in education, housing and employment, and as affirmative action offered life-changing opportunities to those prepared to take advantage — millions of black households clawed their way into the mainstream and the black poverty rate fell steadily, year after year.”

    Mr. Riley, by contrast, stretches and deepens the reader’s understanding of black progress by contextualizing the 1960s within the wider canvas of black achievement in the 19th and 20th centuries. In building off the work of Thomas Sowell, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom and other scholars of black demographics, Mr. Riley notes, for instance, that 75 percent of black families in Philadelphia in 1880 had two parents and children. Black unemployment in 1930 was lower than white employment. Black poverty fell 40 percent between 1940 and 1960. This evidence, Mr. Riley writes, suggests that blacks are quite capable of succeeding on their own without the need for race-based government intervention. The deeper implication is that the logic behind liberals’ well-intentioned social policies would collapse if this were indeed the case — and historical evidence has proved Mr. Riley’s argument to be true.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. Right on queue phillyT. A bit tin foil hatish, but the real dead giveaway is you give the Democrats a pass. Nicely done!

  6. Typical Regressive Fauxbertarian that you are, Olly, you seem to regularly emply projection as your first means of defense. Really quite childish, but not at all unexpected. Republicans and regressives have expressed their disdain for government for decades. They only serve the military industrial complex. They run for office to make sure government fails and they are actually quite good at doing that. There is not one sitting Republican who has not used his/her office for personal gain–Mitch McConnell being a perfect example.

    This government that doesn’t work? You built that.

  7. Doing a keyboard check on my laptop battery which was made in China and dang it! That stupid battery is why my keyboard has been lagging like crazy!!! It has been taking me FOREVAH to type anything, sooo I removed the battery and am now running on A/C electricity that is made right here in the good old United States! OH what a relief! I thought I had a virus or something or that maybe the NSA was spying on my computer. But nope! It was the Heathen Chinee again!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. “it’s all and only about the money.”‘

    Earth-shattering revelation there phillyT. Next you’re going to tell us it’s about power as well. How you progressives don’t recognize you’ve built this unaccountable government bureaucracy is beyond reason. Republican progressives are good at focusing their big overnment abuses on foreign policy while the Democrat progressives focus on domestic policy. All you progressives own this problem and and it is a bi-partisan problem. Own it.

  9. Paul

    Like I said, you are consistent and miss the crux of the issue as well, consistently. Read Ibsen’s ‘Enemy of the People’. The only question is would you throw a stone through the guy’s window or just enjoy the cheap water, quietly.

    1. issac – as a theatre major I have had the opportunity to not only read, but study Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. Also saw it in production. What is your specific point. You are a bit obtuse here.

  10. Oh My God, Karen!

    Do you know anything about the history of America? We DID have children working in mines. And factories. Seven days a week. They bought politicians back then the way they do now. The fight to end minimum wages and safety standards goes on to this very day!

    Please find me one corporatist who thinks they need to be regulated. Capitalism is the very opposite of Democracy and why the two are always at odds. Once the power shifts, as it has done here. you get a government letting corporations write laws, you get government officials telling their regulators to stand down, you get revolving door appointments to Cabinet positions and right down the line. Corporate interest in government leads to bad regulation, bad lawmaking, terrible enforcement.

    Our silly government keeps thinking its mission is to help corporations. They don’t need any help. They need to be regulated, watched, and slapped hard when they break the rules. Letting them keep their owed taxes overseas? Who the hell thought of that? Oh, wait, they did. And they got Congress to write it down.

    There is one reason and one reason only that the government hasn’t banned neonicitinoids, does not want to label GMOs, fails to deal with toxins…it’s all and only about the money.

  11. Issac – the lead was not in the water to begin with, it was in the lead pipes used by people for years. Changing the system shook the lead loose and into the drinking water system. Chicago is having the same problem, but not reporting it.

  12. Oh, and also note our government’s failure to ban cadmium, as well as neonicotinoid pesticides. Anyone who thinks a benevolent government can create some nirvana and solve all your problems is fooling themselves.

  13. I find socialism to be a nihilistic existence. You can never get ahead no matter how hard you try. You can never improve your kids’ situation. You just have to accept what your government gives you. Breath the air and drink the water that your government pollutes and do nothing about it. And if you TRY to get ahead with your little illegal capitalist business, your neighbors will turn you in and you can go to jail.

  14. PhillyT:

    “Come on free-marketeers! Where are you on this one! Let the buyer beware! Let the invisible hand sort this out!”

    Don’t be ridiculous. Capitalism operates on the underlying system of government, which can range from anarchy to democracy to communism (see China).

    If capitalism operates without any underlying rules, such as anarchy, then you can have kids working in asbestos mines. If you have it operating under a communism construct, then you have China, which pumps out toxic waste manufacturing byproducts with absolutely no regard whatsoever to the health of its workers or its people in general.

    Here in the US, Capitalism operates in a democracy. Under the construct where we have strong individual rights, manufacturers do not have the right to expose workers or their customers or the rest of us to toxic products. We have regulations and laws that are supposed to protect our individual rights to health and safety. When a company does wrong, we sue them. (Please note the difference to when our government does wrong, and we can do absolutely nothing about it. The government workers who killed our vets through fraud and negligence at the VA even got a raise, and are still employed. Thus, capitalism affords us accountability and justice, while government tends to insulate itself against both.)

    Capitalism is the most just form of commerce. Someone of any socioeconomic status can come up with an idea for a good to sell that he thinks will be very popular. He will offer it, and consumers will decide if they want it, and vote with their dollars. Even in the most strict socialist or communist societies, these capitalists spring up on the black market, whether it’s little old ladies selling extra eggs or child care, or people selling Western clothes.

    Even now, manufacturers who are found to break the law and sell these toxic Chinese made products are subject to punishment, because we operate with strong individual rights and representative government.

    I would like to add that I wish that there was a similar uproar to the toxic Chinese products that slip through for adults. We need to protect kids most of all, but we should not relax our standards for adult products, either. Those adults can still sicken, or become pregnant, or their kids could come into contact with it.

  15. Lead in Flint water, poison in cheap Chinese goods, pollution, etc., why that’s just the signs of success. To complain is unAmerican. Suck it up you commie pinko *#$$)#(*&$#.

    Hit the perps with super heavy fines. Use the money to hire more government agents to find more poison. Is this that difficult to understand. Then ask yourself is it freedom and poison you want or control and the chance that it has to be pulled back due to overstepping? Amazingly enough almost half of all Americans would take the poison. Cuz that get that giant flat screen on the wall sooner. Unfortunately it won’t last as long as if it were built in the US but he that’s OK we’re only dancing on this earth for a short time.

  16. The penalty for “lax” accounting controls is fines and jail time. The penalty for “lax” domestic quality controls is what? While government has a role in regulating product safety, the corporations don’t seem to get the regulation bang for the tax buck. Also, with the high corporate tax rates, are quality control programs suffering in order to squeeze out every nickel possible?

  17. Come on free-marketeers! Where are you on this one! Let the buyer beware! Let the invisible hand sort this out! The market knows everything! Get government off our backs and out of the market! Let the dogs run free! We don’t need no stinkin lawyers! That risk is already baked into the numbers! And probably several million children.

  18. bam bam

    You are spot on. I wonder how long it will take for the @freedom@ folks to show up here and whine about why the government taking action 1) to prevent this from occurring and 2) to hold the appropriate people and companies accountable would be too much government regulation.

    Darren, how dare you invent these problems so the government can take control of our lives.

  19. The article appears to be somewhat misleading, as it seems to indicate that the problem is with the manufacturers of the costume jewelry, instead of properly placing the blame on the US corporations, themselves–like Kellwood–who meticulously and, quite methodically, choose, examine, and, ultimately, purchase each and every item used in the process of manufacturing their goods. Don’t kid yourself–the fabrics, the buttons, the zippers and the accessories–utilized in the production of these garments, are not surprises, by any means, which are suddenly foisted upon the parent companies by the evil Chinese or sneaky Mexican contractors. Finished samples of ALL outfits, including any and all accompanying accessories, are provided to these US manufacturers PRIOR to, and, well in advance of, these garments actually going into production, for their inspection, where they can, and do, reject a variety of items. Companies, such as Kellwood, may manufacture their goods, overseas, but to imply that there exists a lack of oversight or possession, with regard to the finished product, including any accompanying accessories, is factually incorrect. My family had a union shop, here in St. Louis, for more than forty years–women’s apparel. While my parents never chose to manufacture any of their garments by employing offshore contractors, I am keenly aware as to how garments, such as these, are inspected, examined and, ultimately, manufactured. The parent corporations are not left in the dark with regard to any of the materials employed by their agents and are not left at the mercy of these contractors. They wag the tail–the tail doesn’t wag them.

  20. The Heathen Chinee killed my sister’s poor dog! It was toxic dog treats from Amazon made in China. Hmmm, I wish there was a presidential candidate who wanted to bring more of those factories back here. Oh wait! We have two guys who do! Trump or Sanders.

    This nonsense won’t stop until the cheap imports stop.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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