A lack of emergency shower and eye wash facilities were among the safety deficiencies found by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in an investigation into the potential hazards in the Rhode Island Jewelry Industry.

The study was conducted to evaluate the incidence and severity of occupationally related diseases among workers in the costume jewelry industry in the state. Among NIOSH’s findings: workers often did not know what compound they were working with and were not aware of potential toxicities.

Casting, soldering, and electroplating processes were investigated in 15 facilities by walk through surveys, employee interviews, and detailed studies involving environmental and biological monitoring.

Some cases of excessive exposure to silica and to lead in casting and to cadmium in silver solder operations were found. Two workers had elevated urine cadmium concentrations.

Otherwise, employee interviews did not reveal any patterns of acute or chronic illness among any group of employees except for dermatitis in electroplaters which was attributed to exposure to nickel. There were no respiratory complaints.

In addition to the emergency shower and eyewash lack, NIOSH found an inadequate use of personal protective equipment, smoking in work areas, and a lack of required physical examinations.

The study’s authors conclude that most exposures in the costume jewelry industry are to well recognized hazards that could be reduced by engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and education programs.