Walmart Jewelry Shelves Stocked with Lead

We recently congratulated Walmart on their steps towards adopting the initiatives laid out in our Mind the Stores campaign, but a new a study done by the Washington Toxics Coalition revealed that Walmart may have more work to do than we originally thought.

Researchers took 34 samples of jewelry from Walmart’s shelves and analyzed them using a XRF, which detects the individual elements – like lead or mercury – in a product. Eight of these items contained dangerous levels of lead, ranging from 70 to 300 times the federal limit.

Some, like their Jeweled Horseshoe Pendant, are more than a third lead. Both the people who work in the store and the shoppers can be exposed to lead. Children wearing the jewelry can be exposed by touching it and then putting their hands in their mouths, or putting the jewelry itself in their mouths.

It’s been known for quite some time that lead exposure damages the nervous system and causes reproductive problems. What’s worse is that the design of this jewelry is marketed towards children and young teens, an age group which has a greater risk for the developmental problems, like learning and hearing disabilities, associated with lead exposure.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed that wearing, or accidentally ingesting, jewelry made with lead increases the lead concentration in children’s blood. Finding hazardous chemicals in products sold by one of the nation’s top 10 retailers is sadly not new. Earlier this summer at the Ecology Center, we analyzed picnic gear sold at these stores and found high concentrations of toxics, including lead.

While we were excited by Walmart’s interest in addressing their chemical policy, we hope to see this issue resolved in their new retail plan. Consumers have the right to know what products are safe for them and their families–and jewelry containing lead should not be for sale.

-Juliana Roth

Published on October 24, 2013