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Family safety tips for children's jewellery
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Oct 30, 2010
HSW Comment: Given that it is impossible for Health Canada to test ALL children's jewellery for lead and cadmium, and Health Canada does not have the ability to issue mandatory recalls, and even "Lead-Free" jewellery can contain lead, one wonders if the wise thing to do is to avoid ALL children's jewellery unless you are sure of it's lead and cadmium content; particularly items made in China and sold at discount stores. JA

The Government of Canada has issued several advisories and product recalls in 2010 concerning lead and cadmium in children's jewellery. In the latest announcement on October 19, 2010, the Government appealed to members of the industry to voluntarily stop production, importation and sale of children's jewellery made with the intentional use of cadmium or cadmium-containing materials.

Testing by Health Canada has found that cadmium may be increasingly substituted for lead in inexpensive jewellery. While there is no known risk to health from simply wearing jewellery made with high levels of cadmium, Health Canada's risk assessment has concluded that there is foreseeable potential for sucking, chewing or swallowing of such jewellery which may lead to serious health effects from cadmium exposure.

Earlier this year, Health Canada advised consumers that excessively high levels of lead have been found in some children's jewellery products sold in Canada. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.

In 2003, a 4-year-old child swallowed a piece of jewellery bought from a vending machine. The child became ill because the jewelry was made of lead. In 2006, there was a death of a child from acute lead poisoning after ingestion of a heart-shaped metallic charm containing lead.

Lead and cadmium are toxic metals which can have harmful effects on the behaviour and development of children even at very low levels of exposure. It is illegal under the Hazardous Products Act to import, advertise or sell jewellery items intended mainly for children under 15 which contain more than 600 mg/kg total lead and 90 mg/kg migratable lead. There are no regulatory requirements with respect to cadmium levels in children's jewellery.

So far this year there have been approximately 20 lead/cadmium related recalls associated with children's jewellery. This includes a recall involving a necklace labelled as "Lead-Free". Many of the recalled items were sold at dollar/discount stores. Most of the recalled items were made in China.

Unfortunately, Health Canada does not have the ability to issue mandatory recalls, and must rely on industry to take appropriate action. In June 2010, the Government introduced Bill C-36, the proposed Canada Consumer Safety Act. If passed into law, the Act would modernize the government's approach to consumer product safety and include new measures, such as the ability for Health Canada to order mandatory product recalls of unreasonably hazardous consumer products and the mandatory reporting of incidents or deaths for all consumer products in Canada.

Recommended Actions: Consumers are reminded of the potential health risks associated with inexpensive children's jewellery that may contain lead and cadmium. Health Canada recommends the following safety tips to parents: •Check your child's jewellery. If you suspect it may contain lead or cadmium, throw it out. [HSW: Check with your municipality for instructions on disposing of items containing lead or cadmium.] •Do not give young children adult jewellery to wear or play with; it may contain lead or cadmium. •Do not allow children to suck or chew on any jewellery. •If your child has sucked or chewed regularly on jewellery which you think may contain lead or cadmium, ask your doctor to test your child's blood for lead or cadmium. •A child who swallows a jewellery item containing lead or cadmium is at high risk of developing serious health effects. Contact an emergency medical service if you believe your child has swallowed an item containing lead or cadmium.

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