Retailers settle suit over cadmium in jewelry

Major retailers that sell jewelry, including Gap Inc., Forever 21 Inc. and Target Corp., have reached a settlement with a California environmental group that would all but ban the use of cadmium in those items.

The legal agreement, approved by an Alameda County Superior Court judge, sets strict limits on the toxic heavy metal, which can cause cancer, genetic problems and kidney damage.

By Dec. 31, children's and adult jewelry sold by the companies must contain no more than 0.03% of cadmium, according to the settlement between the Center for Environmental Health and the retail companies.

All of the firms included in the settlement were found to have sold jewelry containing high levels of cadmium in the last year and a half, said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the Center for Environmental Health. The Oakland-based nonprofit group sued the companies after it bought and tested the jewelry.

Michael Green, the group's executive director, said Tuesday that the settlement would "protect our children and families from the health risks of an unnecessary hazard in jewelry."

The companies also agreed to pay a total of $1.03 million to cover jewelry testing, future compliance testing, payments to help defer the Center for Environmental Health's legal expenses and other costs.

A total of 26 retailers and suppliers were involved in the settlement, which was approved Friday. Others included Aeropostale Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Wet Seal Inc., Hot Topic Inc. and Saks Inc.

Since U.S. legislation in 2008 effectively eliminated the use of lead in children's products, Chinese factories increasingly turned to cadmium as a substitute. Like lead, cadmium was used to inexpensively add shape and weight to jewelry.

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