By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The occasional, and in many ways perennial, Chinese, Mexican, and Chilian export containing hazardous material continues to be a concern for child safety. This is often the result of lackluster quality controls overseas and indifference or lack of initiative on the part of children’s toy wholesalers to test products accordingly. It is a problem associated with “Just in Time” shipping methods where a domestic company simply relies on foreign manufacturers to label, ship, and distribute products to market without actually taking possession of the items to perform quality control. The situation is exasperated by lack of oversight by foreign governments and especially from the manufacturers themselves.
Time and money is needed for toy companies in the US to place quality control technicians overseas, and the temptation to avoid this cost and logistic leads to children receiving harmful doses of heavy metals and pathogens.
The latest find comes from children’s jewelry.
The Washington Department of Ecology is charged with, among other duties, reviewing children’s toys and clothing for signs of toxic contamination.
In a random sample performed on products from differing retailers, inspectors found some troubling discoveries.
A recent press release reads as follows:
OLYMPIA – Testing by the Washington Department of Ecology revealed high levels of the heavy metals cadmium and lead in several necklaces sold as accessories packaged with girls’ dresses.
Ecology recently tested 27 pieces of jewelry packaged with clothing and found five that contained very high levels of lead or cadmium. Ecology also tested 132 items of children’s jewelry sold separately, none of which were found to contain concerning levels of these metals. (See the full report.)
Under Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act, items intended for children cannot contain more than 40 parts per million of cadmium. In four pieces of jewelry sold packaged with a girl’s clothing item, Ecology’s testing found cadmium at levels up to 984,000 parts per million, meaning the item was 98 percent cadmium. Ecology has notified the manufacturers of the jewelry that they are in violation of Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act and could be required to take corrective action or be subject to penalties.
One separate necklace sold with a dress contained 50,100 parts per million lead, meaning it was 5 percent lead. Federal law preempts Washington’s standards for lead in children’s jewelry, so Ecology referred its test results to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“There is simply no reason to have high levels of toxic metals like cadmium and lead in children’s products,” said Darin Rice, Ecology’s hazardous waste and toxics reduction program manager. “We tested a wide range of jewelry and most of it was within acceptable levels. A few manufacturers, however, are not following the law and are putting children at risk.”
Both cadmium and lead accumulate in bone and soft tissues in the body, remain in the body for a very long time and can cause serious health effects, especially in children. Cadmium can lead to cardiovascular, skeletal and kidney damage. Lead affects child brain development, and damages the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. Both of these metals are toxic at very low doses.
Swallowing one of the items found to contain cadmium or lead is the greatest concern, although mouthing an item or frequent hand-to-mouth contact after handling a decorative piece could also lead to exposure. Simply wearing the jewelry is unlikely to result in significant exposure. If you purchased one of these products, Ecology recommends returning the item to the store or safely disposing of it in your household trash.
“Cadmium and lead are two chemicals of major public health concern and we support efforts to reduce exposure to kids in Washington,” said Lauren Jenks, director of the Office of Environmental Public Health Sciences at the Washington State Department of Health. “The chemicals impact their developing brains and bodies and they are at greater risk for exposure because they’re more likely to put items like jewelry in their mouths.”
The alleged hazardous jewelry items are as follows:
|Product: Caged Back ¾-sleeve Shift Dress
Description: gold-colored key charm sold with coral dress
Brand: Soulmates Girl
Manufacturer: Big Strike, Inc.
Test result: cadmium – 397,000 ppm (39.7%)
|Product: KW Ivory Moto Dress
Description: bow charm sold with cream dress and jacket
Manufacturer: KWDZ Manufacturing, LLC
Test result: cadmium – 534,000 ppm (53.4 %)
|Product: Lace to Mesh Dress
Description: necklace sold with gold, black, and white dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium – 984,000 ppm (98.4%)
|Product: All Over Floral Dress
Description: necklace sold with lace cream-colored dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium – 931,000 ppm (93.1 %)
|Product: Sparkle Glitter Knit Popover Dress
Description: necklace sold with black and pink dress
Manufacturer: SWAT, Inc.
Test result: lead – 50,100 parts per million (ppm) (5.1 %)
It is not only the safety to the children that is at issue, as if that isn’t enough in of itself, but rather the trust in an industry. If trust dissolves in the minds of many consumers they will abandon the market segment. While this is certainly obvious but there is a point at which some businesses will risk potential discovery if lower costs are attractive enough.
What is even more worrying is the lack of initiative in some government circles to tackle the problem. While lead levels are regulated in children’s toys cadmium is not at the federal level. It begs the question where manufacturers overseas are simply gaming the system. They know that lead contamination can lead to sanctions but since cadmium is not specifically regulated federally they push it through, though cadmium is toxic just the same. It is certainly ethical bankruptcy.
Yet, rather than playing the cat-and-mouse game to ban one substance which will then be replaced by another substance. I assume Congress, as with any sane person, was folly to just assume that manufacturers would not put obvious toxins into toys, but we do not live in benevolent times where we have the luxury to rely upon reason alone.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.