The dangers of lead in jewelry is a hot topic these days with all the news reports of jewelry items being pulled from store shelves.
What comes to mind for most when considering the dangers of lead is lead in the water supply being leached from old pipes and old household paints which contain lead. While chipping paint in old houses is a big concern with small children, there are many more dangers to consider.
Ingestion of lead can lead to poisoning which affects the brain, learning abilities and can cause behavioral problems. Lead can cause organ damage and poisoning that can result in death. There is no one more susceptible than a small growing and developing child.
It is my sincere wish to educate and protect us all from the dangers of lead in jewelry. There is a big need for education on lead in jewelry. It's surprising how unaware many people are about the lead content in millions of items being sold every year and the cheaper the item, the more likely it is to have a high lead content.
The problem with cheap jewelry is twofold; first, the operative word here is "cheap" which means the items appeal to those with a small budget...mainly children. Even if the products are not marketed to children, they entice children because of their affordability.
Second, the operative word is, again, "cheap." These items often fall apart potentially leaving small parts laying around in junk drawers or on the floor to tempt a toddler.
Take for example the preteen who purchases a trinket at the dollar store, or big box store. Perhaps she's not in danger of putting the item in her mouth, although, older children will often play with a charm in their mouth when it is on the end of a chain.
Consider then, when this item is carelessly tossed aside once the trinket is replaced by her latest purchase. Now, her little sister, who is three, could have access to the item. The dangers of lead in this seemingly harmless fashion item is now in her hands. Or worse, in her mouth.
In 2006, four-year-old Jarnell Brown, in Minnesota, swallowed a little heart charm that had belonged to a bracelet. This bracelet was a giveaway item that came with a pair of running shoes from Reebok.
The reason the dangers of lead is so very threatening is because children of all ages put things in their mouths. We are all concerned with choking, but what many people do not realize is that often children cannot control accidentally swallowing. It just happens. Looking at the charm that this poor little boy swallowed one would never suspect that it had any lead, let alone a lethal lead content.
Even with my thirty years in the jewelry business, and my knowledge of potential lead bearing products, there where no alarm bells that went off in my mind when I saw the photo of the charm that this child swallowed.
First of all, the heart charm was relatively flat and looks as though it could be plated brass, or stainless steel. The charm also does not look easy to swallow, but I learned the lesson years ago, with my four-year-old, an item can be accidentally swallowed, even if it's not smooth or round.
It's horrifying that this average looking bracelet was the cause of Jarnell Brown's death because it contained ninety-nine percent lead. This page is really hard for me to write as I have two children and my four year old is just the type to get into stuff if you are not keeping a close eye at all times.
My heart goes out to this poor little boy's mother and father and I so wish that they did not have to suffer such a painful experience losing their child and knowing that he suffered greatly along the way.
Oh boy... the tears come every time I think about this story. This story is what I always remember when I think how passionate I feel about educating the public about lead.
As for Jarnell and the people he leaves behind, there will always be a hole, a very painful void regarding his loss. We all wish if only this...or if that, but, unfortunately, there are losses that are far too big in life that we cannot fix.
The following is a report that aired on CBC Marketplace on January 15, 2016, on toxic jewelry. Read the full article here. If this doesn't get you thinking about the concerns of lead and Cadmium both in finished jewelry and the supplies you are using in your business, I don't know what will. Check out what they have to say about what manufacturers are doing in China.