When In Doubt, Throw It Out!

With the latest news reports of toxic metals in toy jewelry and metal trinkets, you just wonder what is safe for children nowadays. A couple of years ago, there was great concern about lead used in children’s toys produced overseas. Now, the latest scare is due to another heavy metal—cadmium.

Why is lead in toy jewelry a concern? Exposure to lead in children remains a major environmental health problem in the United States. It’s particularly dangerous in children because it can cause serious damage to their developing brains and nervous system. It can also cause other behavior and learning problems. These hazards are also magnified in the case of children because of their behavior of taking their hands and other objects to their mouths. Children can easily put these lead based charms and trinkets into their mouths, hence the concern.

Now, we find that some manufacturers stopped using lead but turned to another heavy metal to produce these toy charms—cadmium. Exposure to this toxic metal in children and adults can have adverse effects on kidneys, lungs, and bones, even cancer.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission denounced the use of these heavy metals in children’s products. Hopefully this will put an end to the use of toxic metals in new toys, but what do we do with some of the toy jewelry and metal trinkets our children received over the holidays? At first, I thought that only the cheapest toy jewelry were the ones at risk of having cadmium or lead. But later I found out that even some of the jewelry with brand names might have these toxic metals as well. We could have these items tested. Yet, with these red flags, the practice I usually follow is—when in doubt, throw it out!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.