Lead-Tainted Charms From China Very Unlucky

The poisonous lead story continues this week with news that 20% of trinkets and charms sold in the United States still contain dangerous levels of lead. In a surprise to no one, “of the 17.9 million pieces of jewelry items pulled from the market since the start of 2005, 95 percent were made in China.” Here’s a good scare quote to drive home the danger:

Jewelry is perhaps the most dangerous place for lead because children can swallow an entire ring or pendant, causing acute poisoning, which can cause respiratory failure, seizures and even death, whereas neurological damage and learning deficiencies are often associated with exposure to lead paint. Many children also tend to suck on jewelry or put it in their mouths, allowing lead to be absorbed into their bloodstream.

To put this in perspective, tainted jewelry made up three-quarters of all lead-related children’s product recalls in the past three years. The CPSC (no doubt power-mad from being given a full six months of authority last week) is now considering a full ban on any amount of lead in children’s jewelry, instead of the current 0.06% enforcement.

The Sierra Club, one of the leading proponents of a full ban, provides a great list of tips on how to keep your child safe from lead jewelry, including the following:

  • Avoid purchasing toys from vending machines. In 2004, 150 million pieces of children’s jewelry were recalled from vending machines nationwide. To be safe, parents should avoid these products.
  • Avoid glossy, fake painted pearls which may be painted with lead-paint.
  • Test suspect jewelry. LeadCheck swabs are available at most local hardware stores and can be used to test for lead in products you may purchase for your child. Swabs turn pink when lead is detected. You can also order test kits online at www.leadcheck.com.

Among the tainted pieces discovered in the past couple of years were nearly 750,000 lead-contaminated charms packaged in Shirley Temple movie sets, in what was surely an accidental illustration of the star’s toxic cuteness.

Sierra Club’s Lead Safety Page

Bid to Root Out lead Trinkets Falters in U.S. [New York Times]

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ChrisC1234 says:

    Wow, I didn’t even know that lead test kits were available to buy. Now, the problem that I see is that the test kits cost MORE than the cheap crap I’d be testing. SO, rather than buy the test kits, I’ll use the money that I’d spend on the kits to buy non-crap from somewhere other than China.

  2. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Lead tests are pretty cheap, and work quickly. I’ve used them on ceramics before, because lead glazes were once common & still show up from time to time.
    As for the tests costing more than the cheap stuff, not in aggregate – in other words, when the cheap stuff in in a crate and the importer wants to bring 500,000 pieces of kid’s jewelry into the country, lead tests are cheap enough that the importer should *always* test their stuff and pay incredibly high fines or go to jail if they don’t test or if they lie about the results.
    There is simply no excuse for this continuing in this day and age.

  3. snarfer says:

    I find fault with the real meaning that “95% of pulled jewelry items were from China.” If 95% of *all* jewelry in the US is from China, then one should simply expect this – and should not be a surprise. Of course, if a lesser overall % of jewelry was from China, then they are certainly over-represented. But, without knowing – well, you can’t know. (that being said, I suspect the Chinese don’t provide 95% of jewelry and that their shipments are indeed more likely to be pulled. But thats not really my point.)

  4. infinitysnake says:

    I never let my kids keep any metal/painted jewelry un les sit comes from a reputasble retailer- the dime store, vending machine stuff is almost guaranteed poison.

  5. miburo says:

    As Snarfer said, this is an article that takes some numbers out of context. I know for a fact most of this type of Jewelry is made in China.

    The first poster is a perfect example of the attitude that promotes these cheap products.
    You guys notice the attitude of the first poster? Instead of spending more money to get a safer product. He’ll just switch to another cheap product and crap shoot if it’ll be safer. This is the same thought pattern that goes through these importers and giants like Wal-mart when they buy their products “Year we could do extra testing but it’ll increase cost on the product to our customers and they’ll stop buying it”

  6. Recallwatcher says:

    Cheap, lead-tainted jewelry isn’t hard to find. A Tampa Tribune investigation earlier this summer found that the CPSC rash of recalls catches little.


  7. clickertrainer says:

    Interesting that I have to click TWICE to skip the helpful advertising before I can read the article — I have always felt the NYT site is one of the most annoying on the Internet.