Why Your Jewelry May Be Unsafe for Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be difficult in a lot of different ways. It can make us feel bloated, fat, ugly, gassy, and a lot of other less than pleasurable feelings. Regardless of whether it is true or not, our bodies are working double-time to grow another human and whatever shape it needs to become is healthy and beautiful. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a little extra to feel good about ourselves as well. I happen to like jewelry- with minimal effort, you can be transformed into a classier and well put together version of yourself! However, after some research, I came across a disturbing fact- most costume jewelry has dangerous levels of metals that can be harmful to pregnancy when shed.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, M.D., M.P.H. who has been on the front-line battle against heavy metal poisoning in young children and pregnant women is one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of lead and produced a recent study at Harvard University concerning developmental growth deterrents in children. Lanphear and his colleague, Dr. Robert Wright, discussed the possibilities that prolonged exposure to a major component of costume jewelry, lead, proved to show signs of developmental and learning problems in school children; all starting from the unborn fetus and the use of costume jewelry by pregnant women. Despite lead being a known carcinogen within the consumer market, there is a new element that brings concern to the table; cadmium. The study found out that jewelry could contain up to 30% of cadmium, which raises the question of human exposure and the potential risks it possesses for human contact. It is the preferred heavy metal in costume jewelry that adds weight and shine and is relatively new to the market, which means there are no pre-existing governmental guidelines or regulations.

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based non-profit organization that advocates for a safe and healthy environment, discovered through recently conducted tests as well that despite strict regulations, many pieces of costume jewelry contain high levels of unsafe chemicals including lead, chromium, and nickel. Researchers took samples of ninety-nine different children’s and adult jewelry pieces from 14 different retailers from stores such as Ming 99 City, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Big Lots, Claire’s, Glitter, Forever 21, Walmart, H&M, Meijers, Kohl’s, Justice, Icing and Hot Topic. Using an tool called an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, they checked for lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic. Samples were collected from Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont.

The researchers found that over half of the products had high levels of hazardous chemicals.

Twenty-seven of the products had greater than 300 ppm lead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)’s lead limit in children’s products. Chromium and nickel, which often cause allergic reactions, were found in over 90 percent of items. Cadmium, a toxic metal that has been the basis for several jewelry and toy recalls according to CBS News, was found in 10 percent of the samples. Recent studies have shown that pregnant women who are exposed to cadmium pose the risk of passing on negative effects to their unborn child in the fetus state. In the past, most studies were focused on the effects of lead.

Now, as cadmium is becoming more prevalent, its effects of being a neurotoxin on the nervous system are currently being studied. Current studies show, however, for the human body, the heavy metal is predominately found within the kidneys and has a half-life of approximately 19 years that it can stay within the body.

As stated by the research done by the World Health Organization, pregnant women and fetuses have the same recommended intake levels because of their sharing of nutrients and the weakened immune system of the pregnant woman for the development of the fetus. By continuing the studies of heavy metals and their effects of children, it will bring to light the future results of being exposed to such minuscule levels; but currently, there are only a handful of symptoms of illness and disease that are present in the world population and may take decades to manifest results due to heavy metals and carcinogens. These risks stated by the World Health Organization also are greater by 4 to 5 times more in pregnant women as they are more susceptible to metal exposures and environmental illness.

It is very important for you to know what you are wearing and how your baby will be affected by it. A few sparkles and earrings are definitely not worth your baby’s health!

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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