Hazardous substances in many types of imported jewellery

The Swedish Chemicals Agency has carried out checks on jewellery together with Swedish Customs. The Inspection project took place within the framework of a European initiative involving 16 countries and their Chemicals Agencies and Customs Authorities. The operation found that one of four imported goods in the participating countries were non-compliant; for example, they contained hazardous substances above the regulated limit.

This was an EU joint pilot project carried out within the framework of the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement. Inspectors and customs officials cooperated on the inspection of imported goods when they arrived at the border. In Sweden, the inspections took place at Arlanda Airport.

“From previous inspection projects we know that goods imported from countries outside the EU are often non-compliant; for example, they contain dangerous substances above the regulated limits or they lack correct labelling. Cooperation with the Swedish Customs is therefore very valuable in regard to inspection of imported goods,” says Marcus Hagberg, Project Manager for the Swedish involvement.

In Sweden, the Swedish Chemicals Agency checked 240 different types of jewellery to determine whether they contained substances of concern, including lead and cadmium. In 23% of the cases, breaches were detected. In those cases in which the substances were found at levels above the permitted limits, the entire consignment of that type of jewellery was stopped. A total of 600 pieces of jewellery containing lead and cadmium above the permitted levels was therefore stopped. The Swedish Chemicals Agency reported nine companies to environmental prosecutors.

“The joint effort stopped a significant quantity of jewellery as well as other products that contained high levels of hazardous substances. You cannot tell by looking at a piece of jewellery that the level of lead is too high, for example, therefore it is important that the goods are stopped before they reach consumers,” says Per Holgersson, National Specialist at Swedish Customs.

One in four items were non-compliant

The European project checked a total of 1,389 goods in 16 countries. 1,225 goods were examined to see if they contained non-compliant levels of cadmium, lead and nickel. The majority of these were jewellery. A small number of the checks concerned the labelling of chemical products. Sweden did not participate in this check. In total, the authorities in the different countries found that one of four products had some form of non-compliance with regard to EU chemicals regulation. The most common breach was non-compliant levels of cadmium and lead in jewellery.

Almost three quarters (74%) of the goods found to be non-compliant came from either China, the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, North Macedonia or Madagascar.

“The Internet makes it easy to get in touch with suppliers or online stores in countries outside the EU but, keep in mind that as the importer, you are responsible for meeting the requirements in the regulations. Both as an entrepreneur and as a consumer, it is important to demand that your supplier meet the chemical requirements,” says Marcus Hagberg.

Read more on the Swedish Chemicals Agency's guide for companies about what applies to importers

Read more about the Inspection project and the European results on ECHA's websiteexternal link

Read the report from the Swedish Inspection (Inspection 13/20) (In Swedish)external link

Lead is a toxic substance that can damage the nervous system and affect the ability to learn. Fetuses and children are particularly vulnerable. However, health risks associated with goods arise mainly if a child or person sucks them or accidentally swallows them.

Cadmium stays in the body for a long time and is stored primarily in the kidneys. This means that kidney function can be damaged if too much cadmium is absorbed over a longer period. Cadmium can also be carcinogenic and cause osteoporosis.

Nickel is a metal used in tools and jewellery. Nickel can cause contact allergy. There are regulations governing how much nickel various products are permitted to release.

For more information, please contact:

Marcus Hagberg, Inspector, +46 8 519 41 159
Henrik Hedlund, Strategic Advisor, +46 8 519 41 334
Swedish Chemicals Agency Press Room, +46 (0) 8 519 41 200, press@kemi.se
Swedish Chemicals Agency Helpdesk Ask the Swedish Chemicals Agency
Swedish Customs Press Service, +46 771 450 590