A shiny necklace sold with a girls’ dress should be pretty, not poisonous. Product testing by the Washington Department of Ecology is helping ensure that jewelry and other everyday products are safe for kids, adults, and the environment.
In March 2016, the Washington Department of Ecology tested 159 pieces of jewelry intended to be worn by children. In four girls’ necklaces, the testing revealed the toxic heavy metal cadmium at levels up to 97 percent, while another necklace contained 5 percent lead.
Ecology staff were alarmed by the test results. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal linked to kidney, bone, and liver disease, and is a known carcinogen. Lead is a potent neurotoxin tied to developmental damage. Neither of these metals belongs in the fragile filigree of a child’s necklace, which could break or be chewed on. Ecology worked with manufacturers, retailers, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall these products. The testing results and recalls drew nationwide attention.
Washington State has been a leader in reducing toxics in consumer products, including work on lead wheel weights, mercury-containing lights, and heavy metals in children’s products and consumer packaging. Product testing is an essential part in guiding those efforts and enforcing the law. In 2014, the Washington Legislature provided Ecology with ongoing funding to expand its product testing program, allowing the agency to both check for compliance with existing laws and to investigate emerging toxic concerns.
From direct threats to human health, such as the cadmium necklaces, to persistent environmental toxics, such as the PCBs created as byproducts in pigments and dyes, Ecology’s product testing program lets the agency learn more about what goes into the millions of products we all buy. All of the testing results are shared with the public on the agency’s website at: http://ecyapeem/ptdbpublicreporting/.
Results to date:
- Tested more than 3,000 products;
- Conducted laboratory analysis on more than 11,000 product components;
- Completed more than 20 product studies;
- Carried out state enforcement actions on more than 100 products;
- Referred more than 20 product test results to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for further action.