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On 12 April 2018, a Los Angeles jewellery company was ordered1 to pay $1.6 million civil penalties for repeatedly selling illegal jewellery, including children’s accessory, containing a high level of lead and cadmium. The complaint also outlines the company disregard for the Unfair Competition Act for its improper labelling practice. Some of the jewellery were sold with labels stating or implying they are “lead-free”, even though the jewellery contains excessive levels of lead”, often many times above the statutory limits.
The company was one of the several jewellery distributors sued by Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in 2012 following a Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) investigation, and was assessed $145,000 in 2014 for unlawful sales and untrue statements concerning lead in jewellery. The Department subsequently conducted inspections at the company’s place of business in Los Angeles. Inspectors identified non-compliant products and falsely labelled jewellery during each of the inspections. In November 2017, more than 110 styles of toxic jewellery were confiscated.
California DTSC enacted the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law2 to limit the amount of lead and cadmium in jewellery. The law forbids a person to manufacture, ship, sell, or offer for retail sale or offer for promotional purposes jewellery in California unless it is made entirely from one or more of the materials specified in the law. The law also mandates lead restrictions for specified materials. There are separate provisions for children’s jewellery, body-piercing jewellery and all other jewellery.