A California court has approved an agreement reached by parties to litigation alleging that companies making and selling jewelry containing cadmium failed to warn consumers under Proposition 65 (Prop. 65) that the products contained a substance known to California to cause cancer. Ctr. for Envtl. Health v. Aeropostale, Inc., No. 10-514803 (Cal. Super Ct., Alameda County, approved September 2, 2011). The agreement requires the companies to pay sums ranging from $35,000 to $75,000, including civil penalties and attorney’s fees and costs, as well as to reformulate their products to reduce or eliminate cadmium content and to stop making, selling or importing any product exceeding a cadmium concentration of 0.03 percent by weight (or 300 parts per million). The defendants also agreed to ensure that recalled products be returned from vendors and destroyed.
According to a news source, settlement negotiations began in 2010, and a key source of contention was how to determine whether a piece of jewelry constituted a risk. The companies focused on how much cadmium could be transferred to a person’s hand during normal use and then to the stomach, while the plaintiff, the Center for Environmental Health, reportedly contended that the measure of risk should be determined simply by how much cadmium a piece of jewelry contains.
Five states have already adopted laws limiting cadmium in jewelry, but they are specific to products intended for children. The California settlement addresses jewelry intended for anyone. See Associated Press, September 6, 2011.