Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lead in Children's Jewelry

Earlier this year, four-year-old boy died after swallowing a lead-filled charm. After many months, Consumer Product Safety Commission has cleared the way for tighter regulation of children's jewelry. On Dec 11, the commission voted to have its staff prepare an advanced notice of proposed rule making for publication in the Federal Register that is expected to call for strict limits on how much lead is allowed in children's jewelry. The move is in response to a petition by the nonprofit Sierra Club.

This lead jewelry was manufactured in China. There are so many toys and jewelries that have some lead content. If you have young child, make sure that you inspect the toys and jewelries before giving it to the child, especially if those items were manufactured in China. Consumer Product Safety Commission just started the process, it would take a year to have complete ban in place.

Lead is often found in shiny, metallic children's jewelry, such as rings and charms from vending machines, or sparkly costume necklaces and bracelets, safety regulators say. The commission has issued 14 recalls involving more than 160 million children's jewelry products since 2004.

Lead is a heavy metal that when ingested can adversely affect the central nervous system, kidneys and blood cells. Even low levels in children and fetuses can cause problems with physical development, behavioral issues and lower IQ levels. In high amounts, the metal can cause convulsions, coma and death. The concern with lead in jewelry is that children will put it in their mouths or swallow it, safety regulators say.

Current law bans any children's product that contains hazardous levels of lead, but doesn't specify what those levels are. Two years ago, the commission instituted an interim enforcement policy that requires secondary testing on children's jewelry found to contain more than 0.06% total lead. If the second test shows that 175 micrograms of lead or more is accessible, or easily ingested, the product is usually recalled. The proposed rule would do away with the second test, and place a flat ban on any children's jewelry product that contains more than 0.06% lead.

If consumers are concerned about lead in children's jewelry, safety officials recommend they talk to retailers to find out if they have a low-lead policy and if they test their products. They also say that parents with children inclined to put things in their mouths should consider avoiding toy jewelry.

Politicians also urge everyone to be careful about lead in toys. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California said "the best way to protect our children would be to ban lead above trace levels in all children's products, not just toy jewelry."

Earlier this week, Rep. Waxman and Sen. Barack Obama released the results of a report they commissioned on lead in children's products, which found dangerous levels of lead in children's gifts and jewelry in Capitol gift shops. The items were removed from the shops when management was notified of the results.

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