A piece of jewelry containing unacceptable levels of lead on display during… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)
State officials have filed a lawsuit against 16 downtown Los Angeles jewelry stores and distributors, accusing them of selling items with toxic levels of lead.
Capping a three-year investigation, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said at a news conference Tuesday that it had seized 306 pieces of jewelry that were found to be tainted with high levels of lead and cadmium.
The jewelry seized was mainly inexpensive adult and children's jewelry, said Brian Johnson, the department's deputy director of enforcement. "This is not the semiprecious and precious metal jewelry industry. Their pieces do not have lead and cadmium."
The lawsuit said the businesses failed to comply with state laws and regulations that set strict limits on the amount of lead in jewelry made or sold in California.
Adults and children exposed to high levels of lead can suffer severe health effects, including nausea, anemia, abdominal pain and in some cases death, the lawsuit said. Young children are particularly susceptible to high levels of lead in jewelry, it said.
The suit, filed by the state attorney general's office in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to stop the illegal practices, which carry fines of as much as $2,500 per piece of jewelry.
The news conference was held in Pershing Square adjacent to the city's jewelry district. Joining the state officials were representatives of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland nonprofit that is separately suing nine other downtown businesses for selling jewelry with excessive levels of lead and cadmium.
Listed as defendants in the lawsuit are Joia Trading Inc.; Alljoy Supply; Adore Accessories Inc.; Ana Trading Co.; Ann Kim Fashion Accessory; Asian Trading Inc.; DA Big Inc.; Eastern Nationwide Inc.; EFM Group Inc.; Jove Imports Inc.; Luxy Accessories Inc.; Miju International; New Rising Sun Inc.; Sam's Accessories Inc.; RJ Imports; and S.G. Imports Inc.
None of the companies could be reached for comment.
Larger retailers such as Walt Disney, Wal-Mart and Nordstrom have stopped carrying products with high levels of toxic metals, Johnson said. Smaller distributors and jewelry stores in the downtown jewelry district, however, still carry the items. He said investigators confiscated tainted jewelry from every establishment they visited.
"You're going to walk into a shop and you're going to find tainted jewelry," he said. "It's pretty much a slam dunk."