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)

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