Toxics Watchdog: Regulate harmful chemicals in cheap jewelry

A TOXICS watchdog urged the government to regulate cheap jewelry laced with hazardous chemicals that may get on children’s hands or end up in their mouths.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for a strong safety regulation after detecting cadmium up to 314,000 parts per million (ppm) and lead up to 69,700 ppm in some jewelries sold from P10 to P50 at bargain shops in Makati and Quezon Cities.

An X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for cadmium and lead.

The screening was held to mark the lead poisoning prevention week that is observed in US from October 21-27.

Cadmium and lead are potent neurotoxins, or brain and nerve poisons, deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

According to WHO, “cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen,” while lead “affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

Exposure even to low levels of lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, delayed growth, hearing loss and headaches.  Acute lead poisoning in children can cause seizures, coma and death.

“Jewelries loaded with excessive amounts of cadmium and lead can poison young children who may naively play with, bite, chew, suck or swallow such items resulting to heavy metals getting into their blood,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Jewelry includes a broad range of ornaments such as anklet, arm cuff, bling, bracelet, brooch, chain, charm, crown, cuff link, earring, hair accessory, necklace, pin, ring, etc.

Consumers will have no way of determining the presence of cadmium and lead in jewelry products due to the absence of a clear-cut policy banning or restricting their use, as well as the lack of policy requiring full disclosure of chemicals in such products, she pointed out.

“We need not wait for a child to get sick or to die from ingesting cheap, but poisonous jewelries. There must be a policy that will protect the public, particularly the children, from dangerous costume and fashion jewelry,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the case of Jarnell Brown, a four-year old boy from Minneapolis, Minnesota who died on February 22, 2006 after ingesting a heart-shaped metal charm containing 99.1%  (or 991,000 ppm) lead. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2008 fined the erring company a historic $1 million for violating the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.
“Death due to acute poisoning from lead-tainted jewelry has happened in US and can be prevented from happening here with the promulgation of a strong policy,” stressed Lucero.

Cadmium and lead above levels of concern were detected in 14 out 17 samples.

Six of the worst samples include:

1. A double ring with flower and owl design that sells for P50 had 314,000 ppm cadmium.

2. A necklace worth P50 with a colourful peacock pendant had 201,800 ppm cadmium.

3. An earring set with a pink crown design priced at P10 had 69,700 lead.

4. A leather-type bracelet with black and yellow studs costing P20 had 55,400 ppm lead.

5. A necklace with a black and yellow Batman pendant selling for P40 had18,500 lead.

6. An orange coated earring set bought for P10 had 11,000 ppm lead.

In US, children’s products, including children’s jewelry, cannot contain lead above the federal limit of 100 ppm under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, while in Connecticut and Maryland, cadmium in children’s jewelry cannot exceed the state limit of 75 ppm.


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