For years there has been considerable news regarding the dangers of lead in the environment. Exposure to lead may result in a number of health and behavioral problems as well as learning disabilities. These include but are not limited to lower IQ, impaired hearing and stunted growth in children. High levels of lead poisoning have produced coma and death. Adults may experience muscle and joint pains, irritability, problems focusing, fertility problems and increased blood pressure. Youngsters under the age of 6 are most susceptible to these problems since they are still growing. This age children also have a tendency to put things in their mouths which is most alarming if the product contains lead. You can see that we need to learn about lead content in the products we encounter.
The discovery of dangerous amounts of lead in children’s toys alarmed the public and we have also learned that jewelry may be a culprit. Lead contaminated jewelry has been sold in gift shops, discount stores and vending machines forcing buyers to beware of what they select. In fact, a 4-year-old perished from swallowing a jewelry charm that contained lead. This problem has also been found in jewelry sold at some reputable department stores.
Thankfully, new laws and guidelines are now in effect to help curb the use of lead in products. The state of California has initiated the most stringent of regulations. In 2009, products made for children 12 and under could not contain more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part. Later that year, the level dropped to 300 parts per million and eventually 100 parts per million. The California laws are stricter than the federal laws which do not address jewelry for adults.
Requirements for labeling products resulted from California's Proposition 65. California provides classifications for products that are used in jewelry indicating the level of suitability for such. Proposition 65, however, states that products that contain lead or other potentially hazardous substances must be labeled as such no matter how they are classified for use in jewelry. This would include products such as crystals that may be appropriate for use in jewelry, but must be labeled as having hazardous content. If you have further interest in these classification please see http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/upload/LeadInJewelry_materials1.pdf
If you are someone who solely produces jewelry for adults, you may be wondering why this information is important to you. At times, I have been thankful that I don’t offer jewelry for children. Yet, adult jewelry does find its way into the mouths of little people. Even if you don’t have a young child or grandchild, a friend can hand you a wee one, like the sweet child pictured here, who immediately grabs your necklace and puts it in his/her mouth. A piece you sell can wind up in the purse of a customer. If that purse is handed to a fitful child for exploration, that jewelry is likely handled or mouthed by a young person. I’m thinking that I need to be more cautious. What can I do?
Good information on this topic is provided at the following link http://www.mjsa.org/publications_and_information/mjsa_journal/lowering_lead where you can find A Guide to Complying with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. This article discussed the federal law pertaining to lead in children’s jewelry.
Additionally, Rodale (http://www.rodale.com/lead-and-jewelry) suggests the following guidelines to help protect us from toxic jewelry:
• Steer clear of items made from unknown metals. Familiar materials like gold, silver, and platinum are fine, but be cautious about buying products made of unidentified metals. If you’re buying for a child or someone who’s pregnant, play it safe and avoid any product whose composition isn’t identified.
• Don’t buy fake pearls. Especially avoid buying these for children. Many are coated with a pearlescent paint that often contains lead. Plus, they’re easy for kids to swallow.
• Avoid pieces with vinyl or plastic cords. Often found in children’s and teen jewelry, these materials can be sources of lead exposure.
• Don’t buy jewelry from vending machines. In 2004, 150 million pieces of children’s jewelry were recalled from vending machines around the country. Avoiding these machines is still a smart choice.
• Purchase an inexpensive lead testing kit and check your jewelry. The kits are easy to use and available in most hardware or paint stores. They’re great for ensuring the safety of items you wear or your child wears.
Gemstones are appropriate for use in jewelry with the exception of the following: aragonite, bayldonite, boleite, cerussite, crocoite, ekanite, linarite, mimetite, hosgenite, samarskite, vanadinte, and wulfenite. Also cat’s eye and glass crystal that contain lead oxide do not pose a threat like metallic lead. I conclude from the California classifications that jewelry components that have not yet been tested or have unknown content may not be used. These include African-made components or other cottage-industry components, especially metal trade and African beads. While these may be safe, the beads must be destroyed to find out and the content may vary from one to another component. Also, any component known to contain high lead content cannot be used in jewelry.
I believe that as consumers of both jewelry and components, we must find a vendor/supplier that we trust. Look for a company that investigates the products they offer and has current knowledge of the laws. I want to buy from a company who looks beyond those laws and has a definite concern for the health and well being of the consumer. It may seem strange, but when a supplier admits a mistake in pricing, sourcing or something else, I recognize honesty. I have noted numerous times when Magpie Gemstones (www.magpiegemstones.com) would not sell me a certain strand of beads that I wanted because the company was not convinced about the name and content and would not misrepresent it. Even though the company had paid for that strand, if they weren’t positive about it, they would not market it.
Secondly, when in doubt about a product, don’t use it for children’s jewelry and think carefully whether or not you want to use it at all. The old “safe not sorry” credo works here.
Finally, let’s do what we can to keep jewelry out of the hands of small children. We also want to educate families of young children regarding the potential hazards of jewelry containing lead. Lastly, let’s actively look for “safe” jewelry components and do our best to market the good stuff.
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