Safe Jewelry in the absence of the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been all but dismantled over the past few years. In a number of ways, this has spurred business and encouraged GDP growth, but there is a downside to lax regulations. Lacking US import regulation, some players in the jewelry industry had started using more lead and cadmium in jewelry construction. Luckily some states, like California, are tightening restrictions in order to protect jewelry consumers from poisonous elements and less than scrupulous jewelry manufacturers.

The changes to the law SB647 require jewelry made for adults to contain less than 500ppm lead, and jewelry for children must have less than 100ppm lead. The previous limits were 60,000ppm, and 600ppm respectively. The law change also limits cadmium in children’s jewelry coating to less than 75ppm. This is good news! This means you can buy jewelry with confidence. No one should wear jewelry that is toxic. Lead and cadmium have both been linked to medical problems. Lead impairs cognitive ability and cadmium causes bone, liver and kidney damage. We know that exposure causes these problems and limiting exposure is the best way to prevent damage, so, for those reasons we support these changes to the law.

Not all members of the jewelry industry are so supportive. Some argue that the new laws impinge on jewelry companies’ ability to make money. Yet, California did not enact these laws to curtail domestic production of jewelry or jewelry components. Part of the reason California felt it needed to enact these new limits is because of the sudden influx of California-based Chinese owned manufacturing plants and warehouses. The recent tariffs on silver raised the cost of doing business significantly for Chinese jewelry makers. To reduce costs, some of the companies that could afford to, bought abandoned California warehouses and moved in a workforce from China to California.

On the surface that seems ridiculous. Moving an entire workforce must be expensive, right? Well, no. The small workforce monitors an army of machines that produce the jewelry. There are relatively few people involved in the new plants and warehouses popping up along the West Coast. The manufacturers and warehouse moguls who moved to the US from China are bringing cutting edge robotic technology with them. Additionally, the manufacturers were accustomed to very lax environmental and production laws. In order to try and protect the pre-existing California jewelry manufacturers and the end consumers, the state enacted these new laws.

It is interesting to me how seemingly disparate things can be so closely connected.
Until next time, thanks for reading Pendant and Ring.
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