Over the past few years, we’ve heard and read about all the potential dangers of lead. An increasing number of jewelers are now staying away from anything with lead, taking things a notch higher by dubbing themselves lead compliant.
But are lead-compliant jewelers and jewelry safe? Can you wear lead-compliant jewelry without worrying about the jewelry causing your problems years down the line? And what exactly does it mean for jewelry to be lead compliant?
What is lead compliant jewelry?
Lead compliant jewelry is the kind of jewelry that is compliant with the set safety regulations about the minimum amount of lead metal that can be in jewelry.
The lead compliant jewelry is, therefore, below the threshold for what’s the specified amount of harmful lead in your body.
Often, metal jewelry, especially the cheaper options, including fashion jewelry, is highly likely to contain lead, which means that you should be careful about the jewelry you buy.
Also, the presence of much lead-compliant jewelry on the market means that the necklace you wear likely has lead, but you shouldn’t freak out because the level of lead in the lead-complaint necklace will not cause you harm.
That said, lead compliant jewelry is not ideal for kids because children are prone to putting things in the mouth, and you don’t want to risk direct exposure to lead.
It’s also important to keep in mind that lead will easily leach into the skin, and it could be absorbed into the body via the skin, especially during normal perspiration. But you could enhance your safety by getting the lead-compliant jewelry because these have been tested, and they are considered to be safe to humans.
Why is lead used in jewelry? Lead in jewelry regulations
What are the regulations put in place for having lead in jewelry?
Exposure to high levels of lead might cause overall body weakness, anemia, kidney, and even brain damage, with exposure to extreme levels causing death.
Lead exposure in pregnant women has dire consequences, especially because lead is capable of cross the placental barrier, hence exposure to the mother and their unborn child.
This level of exposure is very unsafe because the lead that the unborn child is exposed to will affect the nervous system of the child?
But it doesn’t mean that low-level exposure to lead is safe. Even the lowest exposure to lead in babies (specifically) has been noted to affect the kids’ intelligence and their behavior, with lead poisoning causing stillbirths, infertility, and miscarriages.
The CDC notes that lead poisoning and damage from exposure causes more adverse effects in children than adults, with more children showing signs of lead toxicity at low levels of exposure than adults do. With the cause of lead poisoning associated with dust in clothes in some cases and exposure from other sources, including jewelry, it is important to work on ways of avoiding exposure, especially if one has kids.
But we all know that it is not always possible to avoid exposure because there is lead in most of the things we own in our homes, meaning that we unknowingly place ourselves at risk often.
So, how do we make sure that the lead jewelry you buy is safe? And most importantly, why do jewelers and other manufacturers still use lead, despite its side effects?
Regulations for Lead in Jewelry
Lead is often used in jewelry manufacturing, and it is an important metal in the jewelry manufacturing processes because of its ability to the jewelry piece heavier.
It also brightens the colors of the jewelry, and where plastic is needed, made, and used, lead is a critical component for softening and stabilizing plastic.
It’s imperfect, though, as seen above. Lead is characterized as a dangerous and even a deadly metal, especially when used in jewelry, hence the high level of regulation.
The state of California, for example, has put up regulatory measures to prevent lead (in the jewelry) from causing harm.
You also need to be aware of the fact that lead is a metal that will not breakdown naturally in the environment and only accumulates in the body.
So, with high levels of lead found in jewelry, specifically in the inexpensive jewelry for children, regulation of the use of this toxic metal in jewelry is crucial.
The law on metal-containing jewelry
Laws differ, and some parts of the world (actually, most countries across the world) have banned the use of lead in jewelry.
But in most of the US, lead is still used as the stabilizing component in the jewelry production process. Lead is one of the primary metals that’s used to make the metal alloys. Adding lead to create the alloy leaves you with softer metals that melt easily at high temperatures.
Lead is unsafe, though, and it is regarded as one of the most toxic metals used in jewelry, meaning that you might want to avoid any lead-based jewelry.
The good news is that some states are taking active measures to regulate the use of lead in jewelry.
In California, these regulations look like:
Forbidding individuals from the manufacture, sale, shipment, or offering for promotional or relation sale purposes jewelry unless the jewelry is made only from the materials that are specified by the state laws.
The state has mandated lead restrictions for specific materials that are allowed in jewelry manufacturing.
Establishment of separate legal provisions for all the jewelry made for children, as well as body-piercing jewelry, among other types of jewelry.
Following the enactment of these laws to cover Lead-Containing Jewelry and to limit the acceptable levels of lead in the jewelry, some of the manufacturers soon after replaced the use of lead with cadmium (which is, unfortunately, also toxic).
The state took issue with these moves, amending the legislature to restrict not just the use of lead in jewelry, but also the use of cadmium.
With these regulations in place, the minimum level of cadmium acceptable in children’s jewelry should not exceed 300part per million (by cadmium’s weight).
In the most recent changes, the law was revised, and the term ‘jewelry’ is now used to include tie clips.
Is lead jewelry safe to wear?
No. Absolutely not. Jewelry with lead is quite unsafe, and you shouldn’t. On top of all the health risks mentioned above, lead jewelry unsafe, and it might also cause metal allergies.
Remember that lead is a toxic metal, and it is important for you to make sure that your exposure and use of these metals is very minimal.
Lead, nickel, and cadmium are the three metals that must be avoided at all costs, which is why you need to ensure that the jewelry you plan to buy is free from all these metals.
Generally, all jewelry and jewelry components that contain lead are unsafe, but they are relatively safe for adults if they are worn externally, but never internally.
Is lead compliant jewelry safe to wear?
When it comes to compliance, there is a lot that you need to keep in mind, learn, and understand, and in most cases, it means knowing what is considered safe and legal as per the law.
Generally, some of the materials that are considered safe for use as inclusions for the retail class of jewelry include leaded-glass, which is common in crystals, including rhinestones.
But there is the Class 2 jewelry, which contains small levels of lead but is considered safe, for example, the unplated brass or solid copper that contains about 1.5% lead.
Of course, it means that most of the jewelry on the market today contain lead. Whether it’s safe to wear such jewelry or not will depend on the concentration of lead.
Keep in mind that all the jewelry with lead is considered safe for adults, as long as they are worn or used externally.
By complying with the laws and regulations put in place, it is safe to note that the lead-compliant jewelry is safe.
How to tell if there is lead in jewelry?
Testing jewelry for lead is an important thing to do, especially if you are worried about the safety of the jewelry. Here are some of the ways to test for lead.
The Swab Test – for this test, you need to buy the lead swab test kit. The kit is inexpensive, but there is the risk of not getting the most accurate results from the test – the swab only reaches the surface of that jewelry rather than deep in the jewelry. Follow the steps given.
Lab tests – find a lab that tests for lead in your local area. You could also consult your local government. Once you find your facility, submit the jewelry. The lab runs an XRF test (Fluorescence Spectrometry test), and the cost of the test will vary, but it’s often about $100. You will get the test result after 2 weeks.
Avoid dangerous jewelry – if you don’t trust the jewelry or feel that the deal is too good to be true, you might want to avoid that jewelry altogether.
Lead-compliant jewelry might be safe jewelry, but you need to be careful not to end up with jewelry with very high levels of the toxic metal.
Look for lead-free jewelry and make sure that the company you are buying the jewelry from has a certification that proves the legitimacy of their lead-free jewelry.
You also need to lock away the old jewelry (All above 50 years), and you should tell your kids not to put any jewelry in their mouths.
See you guys in the next post!