Toxic Metals Pose Risk to Kids

We have long been writing about <"">heavy metals turning up in a wide range of consumer and children’s products. Now, CNN is reporting that Consumer Reports magazine wrote that tests indicate that “worrisome levels” of these metals have been found in children’s products being sold today, including rain coats, hair barrettes, and jewelry.

The Consumer Reports’ October 2011 issue indicates that a metal-and-rhinestone hair barrette, a clover-shaped cell phone charm, and a vinyl children’s rain coat all contained heavy metals, said CNN. The report focused on both lead and cadmium. Consumer Reports’ report focused on over 30 products and utilized X-ray fluorescence and external laboratory analyses, said CNN.

Lead causes behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, digestive problems, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond. Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. Lead poisoning can cause seizure, coma, and death. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune; experts agree, there is no safe level of lead.

We recently wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering regulating cadmium in children’s jewelry. Over the past year, a number of retailers have recalled toy jewelry and other products made with the toxic substance. Many Chinese manufacturers switched to using cadmium in products they imported to the US because they are barred from using lead; however, cadmium, a known carcinogen, is every bit as dangerous and can interfere with brain development in very young children. On the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.

Of growing concern is cadmium, said CNN, adding that, according to Consumer Reports, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) needs to regulate and limit the heavy metal. “We’re concerned it’s going to start showing up a lot in other products, such as children’s jewelry, or hair barrettes, or other products,” said Don Mays, Consumer Reports’ senior director of product safety and technical policy. “The problem here is that young children in particular have a tendency to put jewelry in their mouth, a necklace, a little pendant, they have a tendency to suck on it.”

The Sierra Club and several advocacy groups recently asked the CPSC and EPA to ban cadmium. The CPSC said it was looking into the proposal and, according to a prior Bloomberg News report, the EPA said it would act to regulate cadmium toy jewelry if the CPSC does not.

Consumer Reports said lead levels in a green clover-shaped cell phone charm “caused the greatest concern.” The charm contained 100,000 parts per million of total lead, which would be illegal if the product was sold as a children’s product, noted CNN. “Although the charm is not marketed specifically to children 12 and under, it could appeal to that age group or it could be accessible to them if a parent or older child has one,” the magazine’s analysis said, quoted CNN. The same for a Revlon Couture Hair Accessory Barrette, which tested high for total cadmium, said CNN. “The barrette is not marketed to children, but it could interest and be accessible to them,” wrote Consumer Reports. Kidorable bumblebee raincoats, which were marketed to toddlers and preschoolers, were upgraded in 2008 to comply with a new consumer product safety law; however, older versions, which test with lead, can be found in stores, CNN pointed out.

Because older items which have been recalled continue to remain on store shelves and because no standards exist in the US for detecting cadmium in children’s jewelry, the magazine suggests consumers look for the newer items; “take a pass on non-labeled hand-me-downs or coats from yard sales”; utilize do-it-yourself screening kits, be aware of toys on government recall lists, and ensure children are not playing with cheap metal jewelry, said CNN.

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