Department of Toxic Substances Control Department of Toxic Substances Control
 

Lead In Jewelry

Lead has often been used in jewelry, to make the article heavier, brighten colors, and to stabilize or soften plastic. However, lead can be dangerous, even deadly when used in jewelry. The state of California regulates lead in jewelry to help prevent it from harming people.


Why Be Concerned?

Lead is a toxic metal, which doesn't break down in the environment and accumulates in our body.   High levels of lead have been found in jewelry, especially inexpensive children’s jewelry.

Exposures to lead can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • behavioral problems
  • learning disabilities
  • joint and muscle weakness
  • anemia
  • organ failure
  • and even death

Children 6 years old and under are most at risk because their bodies are growing quickly. Jewelry containing lead poses a particular concern because children are prone to placing jewelry in their mouths, which can result in absorption of dangerous levels of lead. Lead poisoning is blamed for the death of a four year old in Minnesota who swallowed a lead containing jewelry charm.

The federal government has initiated a large number of recalls of lead-containing jewelry, while California has taken enforcement action against a wide variety of discount stores, department stores, gift shops and vending machine operators.

Metal-containing Jewelry Law 

California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry Law:

  • Forbids a person to manufacture, ship, sell, or offer for retail sale or offer for promotional purposes jewelry in California unless it is made entirely from one or more of the materials specified in the law,
  • Mandates lead restrictions for certain of the specified materials allowed in manufacturing jewelry, and 
  • Establishes separate provisions for children’s jewelry, body-piercing jewelry, and all other jewelry.

After California enacted the Lead-Containing Jewelry Law to place limits on lead levels in jewelry, some manufacturers replaced lead with cadmium, which is also toxic. In response, California’s legislature amended the Lead-Containing Jewelry law (now known as the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law) to restrict not only lead, but also cadmium, in children's jewelry. Cadmium levels in children’s jewelry must be less than 300 parts per million, by weight. Please see our Cadmium in Children's Jewelry Web page.

Recent changes to California’s Metal Containing Jewelry Law

In 2011, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 646 (SB 646) (Pavley, Stats. 2011, c.473) For more information on  SB 646 see the following: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0601-0650/sb_646_bill_20111004_chaptered.pdf.  SB 646 deleted provisions specifying that a party that is a signatory to the amended consent judgment or a signatory to the consent judgment in the consolidated action entitled People v. Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corporation, et al. (Alameda Superior Court Lead Case No. RG04-162075) is deemed to be in compliance with California law.  SB 646 also revised the definition of the term “jewelry” to include tie clips and clarified certification requirements for jewelry suppliers and/or manufacturers.



Who is Affected by the Metal-containing Jewelry Law?

The Metal-Containing Jewelry Law applies to:

  • Any person who manufactures, ships, sells, or offers for sale jewelry for retail sale in California
  • Jewelry  offered for promotional purposes in California
  • Businesses of all sizes are subject to the law, including but not limited to large retail "box" stores, online stores and web sites, discount stores, bead shop, craft stores, gift shop, souvenir stores, businesses selling children's jewelry in vending machines, tattoo shops, body piercing shops, people who make and sell their own jewelry, video arcades, and mail order companies.

All jewelry is subject to the restrictions set forth in the law. There are separate standards for children's jewelry, for body piercing jewelry, and for all other jewelry.

More Information


Contact us with questions or comments at: leadinjewelry@dtsc.ca.gov 

Join our E-List for updates about this law