Get the lead out
Special Report: Get the lead out
Little girls like to play dress up, and Beth Strachan's two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Charlotte, is no exception!
"She loves jewelry," said Strachan of her daughter. "She wears it all the time. She's really into necklaces and bracelets."
Strachan buys her daughter those little, inexpensive pieces of kid jewelry you can find at most stores, supermarkets and even in vending machines. But what Strachan and many parents don't know is they may be putting their little ones in real danger by giving them jewelry with lead.
In Minneapolis, Jarnell Brown, 4, died from lead poisoning when he swallowed the charm off a child's bracelet. The charm was tested to be 99 percent pure lead.
"This something you would think would come out of a movie, but it's not -- it's my child's life," said said Juanna Graham, Jarnell's mother.
Since Jarnell's death three years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has pulled more than 165 million pieces of dangerous jewelry from stores.
"We are looking for it, and we will continue to announce recalls when we find dangerous levels of lead in children's jewelry," said Julie Vallese, U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
But are there still some potentially toxic pieces out there? 7NEWS bought and tested 10 pieces of jewelry; everything from kids necklaces to bracelets and earrings.
"We did find some failing pieces," said David Kahler, Geolabs, Inc.
Nine out of 10 contained lead. More frightening, three of the pieces had levels well above federal guidelines.
"It is shocking to me that the levels that are being found in this jewelry are that high," said Kahler.
What's worse: two of the pieces had exceedingly high levels of what experts call "accessible lead," meaning lead that could easily rub off.
"If they're playing with the jewelry in their hands and then put their hands in their mouth or near their mouth, the lead can be transferred," said Vallese.
"The real fear is that they'll swallow it, and lead can be absorbed from the gut," said Alan Wollf, MD, Director of Environmental Health at Children's Hospital Boston.
Accessible lead levels above 175 micrograms per piece are considered a threat to children. 7NEWS found one piece with over 400 micrograms and another with over 1,200 micrograms of lead.
"I can't believe that those would be on the market," said Strachan.
"If they're making them for children, I would think they'd be a safe product," said mother, Kelly Crosby.
The CPSC is currently considering a ban on children's jewelry that contains more than .06 percent of total lead. But with many of these popular accessories coming in from foreign countries, regulating them is not an easy task.
So what can you do to protect your child?
Experts say if you want to be extra safe, it's best to avoid buying metal jewelry altogether for young kids. If not, make sure your child doesn't put any metal jewelry in their mouth and have them wash their hands immediately after playing with it. Simple things you can do to get the lead out.
(Copyright (c) 2007 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
To see a list of recalled jewelry:
Go to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission web site, type "jewel" into the "Optional" section's white box and click on the "Simplify Search" button. Select "Jewelry" or "Costume/Children's Jewelry" from the list on the left and click on the "Find" button to see either list of recalled products.
If you suspect your child has been poisoned by lead contact:
Massachusetts Poison Control Center
Children's Hospital Boston
Pediatric Environmental Health Center
45 Johnson Lane
Braintree, MA 02184