The California attorney general’s office has sent five violation notices to Rainbow Apparel for selling jewelry with high levels of lead. The retailer operates more than 1,100 stores in the United States, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, including 35 in California under the names Rainbow and 5-7-9.
After the fourth violation notice in June, California Watch bought 30 pieces of jewelry from five Bay Area Rainbow and 5-7-9 stores on July 2. The jewelry – necklaces, pendants, bracelets, rings and earrings – ranged in price from $1 to $9.99. Many of the tags said the items were made in China, and some were labeled as lead-free and for kids.
To determine how much lead was in the jewelry, each part of the item had to be tested. That meant separate tests for the chain, clasp or charm.
The Center for Environmental Health uses an X-ray flourescence analyzer to screen for lead
California Watch first had the items screened by the Center for Environmental Health, which regularly tests jewelry for lead using funds from the attorney general’s settlement with the jewelry industry.
The center used an X-ray fluorescence analyzer to estimate lead levels in each jewelry component. Six pieces that registered high levels of lead were then sent to a separate laboratory in Hayward for analysis. Using Environmental Protection Agency methods 3050B and 7420, Forensic Analytical Laboratories confirmed high levels of lead in all six pieces. The laboratory found lead levels in components of the six jewelry items ranging from 0.1 percent to 25 percent lead by weight – all above the legal limit.
- A necklace with dangling tear-shaped charms had a lobster-claw clasp that was 16 percent lead. The necklace was sold with matching earrings and was labeled “kids.”
- A silver heart-shaped pendant with black stripes had a lobster-claw clasp that was 16 percent lead.
- A pink heart-shaped pendant encrusted with matching rhinestones had a metal backing that was 23 percent lead. The attorney general bought the same pendant and found its metal backing was 96 percent lead.
- A pink-and-silver heart-shaped pendant bordered by rhinestones had a metal backing that was 24 percent lead.
- A silver heart-shaped pendant had a backing that was 25 percent lead.
- A black heart-shaped pendant was coated in paint that was 0.1 percent lead.
California Watch notified Rainbow Apparel of the high lead results, and the retailer pledged to remove the items from its stores.