SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- You'll want to check your jewelry boxes if you've purchased adult jewelry from Ross, Nordstrom Rack or Papaya stores across the Bay Area.
Researchers at the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in Oakland bought and tested jewelry from those retailers and found traces of cadmium, a toxic metal.
The study showed some jewelry sold with women's dresses and shirts was nearly pure cadmium.
"Like lead, it causes birth defects. It makes it harder to maintain a pregnancy and it also makes it harder to get pregnant in the first place," CEH CEO Michael Green said.
As it stands, California only has laws regulating the amount of cadmium in children's jewelry, without any laws addressing the toxin in jewelry intended for adults.
State law allows no more than 0.03 percent cadmium in children's jewelry.
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"We need harmonization of standards worldwide to make sure that all are playing on a level playing field," said Brent Cleaveland, the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association.
The recently tested samples were purchased from stores across the Bay Area over the past year.
The study suggests that if the jewelry is worn over a period of time, the cadmium could damage kidneys and bones.
"We are very surprised to find that cadmium is still showing up," Cleaveland said. "You cannot legislate against the bad players, you know, and unfortunately there are always going to be bad players at hand in whatever you're doing."
On Thursday, shoppers at a Ross location in San Mateo spoke with ABC7 News about their shock. Mue Robinson told the station she's purchased jewelry at the store.
"I have," Robinson said. "Silver necklaces and earrings, and I'm not going to do it -- no."
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CEH's testing found most of the tainted items were sold at Ross.
Other shoppers shared their concerns of cadmium showing up on the shelves of their favorite discount shop.
"Of course I'm always going to be looking for the bargain, but I certainly don't want..a piece of jewelry that's going to be toxic to me," Ruth Phillips told ABC7 News. "I'd like to think that they'd done their due diligence."
Researches report the brands found with high cadmium levels in Ross stores included Tacera and Vibe Sportswear.
The extent to which contaminated jewelry is in stores elsewhere isn't clear, though researches say a national retailer would not typically limit a product to just one region.
Jewelry from bargain stores across Bay Area tests positive for toxic metal