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‘Stunningly’ High Lead Levels Found in Urban Outfitters Products

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found what it describes as “stunningly high” levels of lead and cadmium in Urban Outfitters fashion accessories, it announced Tuesday.

The California-based nonprofit identified seven products from the company’s “Urban Renewal” line with particularly high levels of lead or cadmium, including up to 64 percent lead and 52 percent cadmium, it said. The items included necklaces, belts and a pin.

California maintains one of the strictest laws regarding lead in jewelry in the United States, with a 2019 law lowering the lead limits for adult jewelry from as much as 60,000 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm. The CEH claims to have detected as much as 590,000 ppm in Urban Outfitters’ Urban Renewal Gold Dragon Necklace. Two other items also returned six-digit lead levels, while another two returned readings in the tens of thousands.

“Consumers are being needlessly exposed to toxic chemicals without their knowledge or consent,” Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of illegal toxic threats at CEH, said in a statement. “This is particularly concerning because jewelry and belts are something that many of us handle every day. Pregnant or people of childbearing age, who may purchase these items, are especially at risk because exposure to lead and cadmium can lead to problems getting pregnant, difficulties maintaining a pregnancy, and the increased likelihood of birth defects.”

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According to Jimena Diaz Leiva, CEH’s science director, even low levels of lead can be “harmful” and cause “irreversible” health effects on children.

Urban Outfitters did not respond to a request for comment.

The CEH began widespread jewelry testing in 2003, filing what it calls the first legal action
 in the U.S. to stop the sale of lead-tainted jewelry the following year. The action resulted in an agreement with Macy’s Target, Wal-Mart and more than 200 other companies.

“Two decades after CEH began widespread jewelry testing, we are proud to say that most jewelry on store shelves does not have the lead and cadmium issues that the Urban Renewal line has,” Caitlin Moher, senior research coordinator at CEH, said in a statement. “Major retailers should never profit at the expense of our health, especially when claiming that their vintage line is ‘sustainably sourced’ and upcycled: that is blatant greenwashing.”

Lead is not the only hazardous material the CEH is fighting. In November, the nonprofit released its findings on BPA (bisphenol A) levels in socks. Based on its research and California law, the CEH sent 60-day notices to 75 sock brands, including Adidas, Champion, Gap, Hanes, New Balance and Reebok. A month earlier, in October, the CEH revealed it had sent legal notices to Nike, Asics, Athleta, Brooks Running and The North Face over BPA levels in the companies’ sports bras and athletic shirts.