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Toxic metal cadmium found in chain store jewelry again

Testing done for the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health found that some jewelry sold as included accessories for women's shirts and dresses sold at Ross, Papaya and Nordstrom Rack was made almost entirely of cadmium. The metal is known to cause both kidney, bone and reproductive issues, including cancer, after prolonged exposure.

Many consumer advocates had hoped that cadmium was no longer being used in the U.S. jewelry market. In 2010, the Associated Press discovered that some Chinese manufacturers were making children's jewelry out of the toxic metal, sometimes substituting it for lead. Several states then outlawed cadmium in kids' jewelry, and testing indicated that it had fallen out of use by 2012.

Unfortunately, the laws did not address cadmium in adult jewelry. However, the state of California does have a law in place requiring businesses to notify customers when they have been exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

When the center decided to test adult items last year, it found 31 items bought from San Francisco-area retailers that were at least 40 percent cadmium -- and the majority were over 90 percent cadmium. It's not clear how much of the cadmium jewelry is being sold outside California, although national retailers generally wouldn't limit products to a single region.

The Associated Press included pictures of some of the jewelry, which appears to be made of metal with or without paste-style gemstones of various colors.

Cadmium can accumulate in the body over time and damage bones and kidneys. Most people who are exposed to it have ingested small amounts or through tobacco, which sometimes contains cadmium. Some science points to the possibility of absorption through skin contact, which is also known to trigger psoriasis and other skin conditions.

"If you're the person that buys and is wearing that jewelry, you don't really care whether it's a common problem or a rare problem," said a spokesperson for the center. "You have a problem."

The Associated Press spoke with Ross, Papaya and Nordstrom Rack, all of which retail nationally. Each assured reporters that their vendors and suppliers are required to comply with the law and that they had reached out to those suppliers regarding the cadmium issue. Papaya has recalled the cadmium products and discontinued contracts with the manufacturer.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not issued any limits on cadmium in adult jewelry. However, all manufacturers, distributers and retailers of consumer products are held strictly liable for any harm their products cause when used as expected. If you suspect you have been harmed by tainted jewelry or another consumer product, discuss your situation with a product liability attorney.

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