At a news conference downtown Tuesday, officials with the Department of Toxic Substances Control discussed their findings.
"In our investigations, we found jewelry that in some cases contained over 1,000 times the legal limit for lead," said Brian Johnson, deputy director of enforcement for DTSC.
California law restricts the amount of lead and cadmium that can be present in jewelry sold on the market. Yet the investigation conducted by the DTSC and the Center for Environmental Health found many jewelry stores in Downtown L.A. are still selling tainted items.
"This kind of lower-cost jewelry is often found disproportionately in communities in lower socio-economic communities here in California," said Johnson.
To help combat the problem, DTSC and CEH have a complaint against 16 businesses that sell jewelry containing high levels of lead, hoping fines of up to tens of thousands of dollars will get the companies to change their practices.
"Lead is a potent neurotoxin, that is particularly harmful to children, and cadmium is believed to cause of cancer," said Johnson.
In some cases, the jewelry found in the 16 stores had tags that said the items were lead-free when, in fact, they were not.
The state is also asking consumers to be proactive by asking sellers about the products and what kinds of metals compose the jewelry.