As You Sow began purchasing and testing costume jewelry from a variety of retail outlets during 2003. In early 2004, As You Sow issued notices of violation to 16 retailers of such items and concurrently learned that a colleague organization, Center for Environmental Health, had also recently issued similar notices. These cases were taken over by California’s Attorney General. As You Sow and Center for Environmental Health worked closely with the Attorney General’s office in prosecuting this litigation, was diverted to voluntary mediation.
All of the parties reached an agreement in early 2006 after more than a year of intense negotiations between the Attorney General, As You Sow, Center for Environmental Health, and jewelry manufacturer, distributor and retailer groups.
Over 70 companies agreed to stringent new standards for lead in all jewelry components and the agreement is especially strict as to children’s jewelry whereby lead will be eliminated or reduced to a trace amount. For example, metal components and jewelry coatings for children’s jewelry must contain no less than 600 parts per million and plastic (PVC) components can contain no more than 200 parts per million of lead.
During its investigation of these products, As You Sow found some jewelry samples with levels far above these new low lead requirements. The settlement also allows for other companies to opt-in to the same agreement and provides funds for ongoing testing of the jewelry by Center for Environmental Health and As You Sow.