An Emotional Spending Spree That Ended in Cadmium Trash

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star earringsIt was one of those days I just wasn’t feeling right.  It was raining.  My kids had been grumpy all day despite all of my efforts to be a stellar mom.  My fiance was working a long shift.  My self-esteem was sitting pretty low.  It was in this state that I entered the Twitter-sphere that night.  I follow a wide variety of people.  Most of them are personal finance bloggers, some of them are just regular people, a larger percentage are Pittsburgh organizations, and then there are the coupon and freebie bloggers.  Even if you don’t read the blogs of endless coupons, following them on Twitter can be a pretty sweet deal.  They’re always posting free or low-cost stuff.

In my moody state, I saw a tweet about some 53 cent earrings on Amazon.  I clicked through.  And they were really cute.  Heart studs with embedded crystals.  It said they were electrum.  They were 53 cents with free shipping.  And I had some giftcards from Swagbucks burning a hole in my electronic pocket.  So I bought them.  And then I bought another pair to stick in…whoever’s stocking.  Amazon notified me that the same seller had some silver-colored four-leaf clover studs for the same price.  So I bought those, too.

I was in a much better mood when my fiance got home.  Even though those earrings hadn’t come in yet, I was feeling pretty.  I ran to the door and threw my arms around his neck.

“So you had a pretty good day, then.”

“No.  It was kind of rough actually.  But then I bought earrings off Amazon.”

“Oh?”  He looked confused.

“Yeah, and they were only 53 cents each!  I got three of them.”

“Oh, that makes more sense.”  He knows me well.  Well enough to know that, for me, $1.59 on jewelry that I don’t need qualifies as a shopping spree.

I was pretty excited.  It said they wouldn’t get to me until a month later, but the shipping was free so I didn’t care.  Just when I was getting worried that I wouldn’t receive them, a small package with Chinese symbols all over it came in the mail.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know.  I think it’s my earrings.”

“Oh.  Well you might as well wear them.”

I was about to head to the doctor’s with one of my children, so I slid them in as we were walking out the door.

I had them in for about twenty minutes.  I was driving when I remembered my lead Christmas tree.  It was made in China, too.  I started to get a hypochondriac’s head ache as I pulled the backs off the earrings to remove them.

It turns out I was right to be concerned.  China got in trouble a while back for lead in jewelry that they shipped and sold in the USA.  (That wasn’t even direct online; it was to retailers who you would think would require products to meet certain standards.)  And even more recently, cadmium.  Both of these metals are pretty cheap, make jewelry heavier, and can make you incredibly ill with enough exposure.  To give you an idea, cadmium can be found in things such as batteries.

Where it goes from the batteries is kind of disturbing.  This hub page talks about the cycle:  we recycle our cadmium infused products, we send that recycling to electronic waste scrap centers in China, and then Chinese people (sometimes children) sort through that scrap, exposing themselves constantly to the stuff, so it can be melted down and turned into jewelry.

I threw away the earrings.  All three pairs.  Throwing them away isn’t much good either, I later found out.  It goes into our landfills and therefore all of our natural resources. What a Catch-22:  poison your environment or poison your fellow man.

It’s time to sort through my jewelry tree.  I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with all my cheap necklaces and earrings.  But I sure as heck won’t be wearing them.

20 thoughts on “An Emotional Spending Spree That Ended in Cadmium Trash

  1. donebyforty

    Yikes. That’s scary stuff but I’m glad you caught it. It is a catch 22…I wonder what we’re supposed to do with that material once we come in contact with it.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I have no idea. The best thing I’ve been able to find is “recycle it.” But we see where that gets us…

  2. E.M.

    Oh wow, that’s crazy that they’ve been selling it to retailers. Thanks for the information – I will have to look into it more and make sure I don’t ever buy jewelry containing lead or cadmium!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      The hardest part is that there’s no way to really know…it’s not something they really advertise. If there’s a question in your mind, I wouldn’t wear it!

  3. The Frugal Exerciser

    You know what, when I was in St. Louis two week-ends ago, I bought some faux cheap silver hoops, why was my earlobe on fire after wearing them for 4 hours? No wonder they made me sick. When I got back home, I threw them in the garbage and now I’m happy I did this. I almost died of lead poisoning when I was a 2 years old. My twin and I were in the hospital but I guess I ate more paint chips or it affected me more, I don’t know. I love silver hoops but you know what, I will save and buy one real silver pair.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’d be especially wary in that case, then! That sounds like a good plan to save up for them.

  4. Ms. S

    Who knew! Glad you thought of that. I’m wondering how I would even know if my earrings are a) made in China and b) have in toxins. I don’t switch out earrings to often and wear the same pearl earrings most days. It would be great if there were some kind of test available so I could check the earring posts.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Let me know if you find one! I have so many I’m so sad to part with….if I could test them maybe I wouldn’t have to.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I don’t know. I guess it would depend on the department store. Before purchasing, I’d ask where the product was made. If the answer’s China, I’d ask them directly what standards they hold the manufacturer to. Your average desk clerk probably won’t know, but finding someone who does could save you illness.

  5. makinthebacon

    As a kid, I used to be real allergic to earrings that weren’t real gold or real silver. My ears would get really red, itchy and dry. I hardly wear earrings now, except for special occasions. I’m not allowed to wear jewelry at work for safety and hygienic reasons. When I do buy earrings or jewelry in general (which isn’t often though), I tend to spend a bit more.

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