Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lead us not into cheap jewelry

As if parents don’t have enough to worry about, now we have to fear the cute little necklace or charm bracelet we bought at Wal*Mart will give our kids brain damage.

I’m all for laws protecting children from dangerous products, but I wonder if the terror associated with the possibility of lead poisoning isn’t being taken just a little too far.

This article is basically a big pat on the back for the Chairman of the Consumer Safety Commissions, who is cracking down on jewelry and toys imported from China which may contain high levels of lead and cadmium. The danger posed by exposure to these two heavy metals, according the article, is extensive. Children can suffer brain damage which can lead to severe developmental disorders.

The mere idea that such harmful substances might be found in items given to children is reprehensible and the Commissioner should be congratulated for her vigilance and dedication to protecting American families. I can’t really argue with that – but if you read the article carefully, you’ll note that nowhere does it explain exactly how lead or cadmium poisoning occurs.

Answer.com has this to say about Cadmium poisoning:

Cadmium can be very toxic, and is dangerous if it is swallowed or inhaled.

And this to say about lead:

Lead poisoning occurs when a person swallows or inhales lead in any form.

Note the danger seems to lie in the swallowing or inhaling of these metals, not the wearing or touching of them. Now, of course I realize that young children do often put things they’re not supposed to in their mouths. They swallow small toys, suck on them, and occasionally even stuff them up their noses. Hence the danger of poisoning – but the article doesn’t explain this. It sort of insinuates that if your child happens to be wearing a cheapo pendant from one the brands in question, rip it off her little neck. Slap that bracelet right off her wrist this instant because it’s giving her brain damage.

Clearly, the proper response to this information should be panic, clear and simple.

Let me repeat, I’m all for product safety, especially when it comes to toys, but I think the important bit of information that’s neglected here is this: Parents, don’t allow your children to put jewelry in their mouths. If your child can’t keep that necklace or bracelet or small toy out of her mouth, don’t let her play with it.

I realize a warning like this would put the responsibility for a child’s safety on the parents, and let’s face it, what parent has the kind of time these days required to actually supervise their child? Seriously. So, rather than caution parents to make sure their kids aren’t eating things that were not intended to be eaten, the message is: You too could be a victim!

If only a dose of reality were better than a pound of litigation, maybe parents could get the real facts from articles designed to warn them about potential dangers, rather than more hype designed to scare them senseless.


  1. I'd be willing to bet that there's already a dozen lawsuits going about this somewhere which is probably what prompted the warning in the first place. It's all about money...not a child's health.

  2. While I understand the whole swallow or inhale thing....but can't these heavy metals be absorbed through the skin as well? And then build up over an amount of time? Can't the "protective gold or silver plating" become removed and then allow the harmful lead or cadmium be exposed and leech into a wound/scratch or cut on a child? Or an Adult for that matter?

    Just wondering.

  3. That's a good question about absorbing through the skin. I didn't find references to that being the case, only about swallowing or inhaling. Cadmium might be a different story, but everything I've ever read about lead poisoning had to do with ingesting it. Again, the original article probably should have made it clear, and I believe it didn't only because it would not have seemed to be something to panic about if they told the whole truth. JMHO