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When In Doubt, Throw It Out!

2010 January 21

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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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25 Responses leave one →
  1. Joan permalink
    January 21, 2010

    Lina, is there a recommended way to “throw out” items containing toxic heavy metals? Is it safe for the environment to just drop them in the outgoing trash?
    Thanks very much!

  2. Barbara permalink
    January 21, 2010

    There is no “away.”

  3. Bror Wingard permalink
    January 21, 2010

    I have a unique idea. Quit buying products made by unregulated companies, buy US made products.

    Not only are goods from US companies safe, but it will also help to restore the economy of the greatest country in the world.

    Lets all do our part in being good stewards of the environment, we can start by not supporting companies that are not themselves good stewards

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    January 21, 2010

    will look into it and get back to you.

  5. Al Bannet permalink
    January 21, 2010

    I posted a reply, but the time censor deleted it. Here’s a short version —
    Growing population = growing economy = too many billions of products to safely regulate, casualties inevitable. Give all women the right to family planning education = a smaller population and the possibilty to safely regulate all products.

  6. Helen permalink
    January 21, 2010

    When is the EPW website going to correct the information on the internet, regarding the report by 650 International Scientists that proves there is no such thing as ‘global warming’?? This information needs to be provided to the public and it is the role of the EPW to STOP the global warming hysteria, since it is NOT REAL, except to the global warming alarmists who have turned it into a religion.

  7. Carlo permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I really can’t believe that even toys have become harmful for children nowadays. Its something that they enjoy and want yet turns out to be harmful for them. I guess this is one of the turn-backs of our products today. Hopefully people would be much aware of this.

  8. Al Bannet permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Is the growing human population real? Are the growing tons of garbage in growing mountains of landfill around growing cities real? Are the growing tons of air pollution pumped out by the growing number of coal fired power plants and the growing number of jet planes real? Are the growing tons of garbage dumped into the oceans real? What does all that growing pollution do to the global environment? How many people can the Earth support and how much human waste and trash can it absorb considering the fact that the planet is slowly shrinking with each volcano and earthquake? If you don’t deal with these questions, your children and grandchilderen will have to.

  9. Lina-EPA permalink*
    January 22, 2010

    Stay tuned for info on disposal of these trinkets. Promise an answer by my next blog post.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    January 23, 2010

    Unfortunately every thing which is related to new technologies is harmful because every companies around the world are obliged to use chemical materials in their products for being more and more economical. In this way we have to make effort to use natural equipments specially when we are engaging with children because they are really vulnerable. thank you so much for your helpful announce.

  11. wade harter permalink
    January 25, 2010

    Give Bror Wingard a “five star rating”. The only way to insure full employment and advance technology here in the USA is to buy products made in the USA. That means restart manufacturing.

  12. RLR permalink
    January 26, 2010

    We need to stop associating the word *chemical* with being a bad thing. Chemicals are abundant in your life and many of them are good. We throw around terms like *natural* as if they have some magical all-curing power. Many so called natural products are unregulated and do more harm than good. I am a total environmentalist, but please, educate yourself and avoid blanket statements about chemicals.

  13. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    January 27, 2010

    I support the idea that we should buy “Made In The USA” because American manufacturers are regulated by EPA and here by CalEPA. Regulation is not an entirely bad thing as a few would have us believe. It is good health and safety sense to insure that toxic discharges don’t happen, that emissions are controlled and reduced, that toxics are kept out of sewers and storm drains, and that compounds proven to be dangerous or hazardous like lead and cadmium are not used in things like children’s toys. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  14. Lina-EPA permalink*
    January 29, 2010

    Please note: CPSC just recalled children neckaces with cadmium. See press release:

    http://twurl.nl/0zcsrg

  15. jean m. kaufmann permalink
    March 25, 2010

    I am a Canadian mother and jewelry designer. I alway purchase natural products to use in the creation of my designs. We live in a throw away society and it is getting out of control. We need to think before we purchase things and consider what the product is made of and where it came from. Since China seems to have no rules in regards to what they put in their products I will never purchase anything from China.

  16. Annie Roberts permalink
    March 26, 2010

    I always purchase natural products as well. And I agree with the comment above, we live in a throw away society. If we just started saving more items, and making everything non-disposable, this kind of problem would start to get cut down on… anyways, just my 2 cents.

  17. Jessica Pepper permalink
    May 12, 2010

    I live in a town that used to be a Superfund Site, till the EPA deferred it to the State of Oklahoma. 18 Years later we still have smelter waste on the ground, in yards that they claim are clean. This smelter waste is sometime the size of cender blocks and sometimes it is “sand” size. Each piece contains large amount of lead, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium. They have failed to address this until now. Yet many people in Blackwell OK will have to wait years until all of the smelter waste is remove (if it will ever be removed), including the truck loads that lay upstream in our drinking water supply. How is the lead, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium in small peble size debris any different then the lead and cadmium in the toy jewelry. My point is the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality does not reconize debris as hazardous, yet this small debris contains more lead, arsenic,zinc, and cadmium then the toy jewelry. But I guess Oklahomans have a special resistance to these elements and lead arsenic zinc and cadmium are only toxic in other states. ODEQ applied for a waver.

  18. Jewelry Buyers Houston permalink
    June 12, 2010

    It’s a great article, the uses of lead on toy industry with the color of toy, and it is too much dangerous for the children who use this toys. because its create some dangerous effects on them and this problem can laps their future forever, through your article we are aware about this type of problem with the toys. I think in future you help us with your more articles.

  19. Spirit permalink
    September 24, 2010

    It is easy to avoid toxic items if you use real gemstones.

  20. Susan permalink
    October 6, 2010

    Whoah! Great article you have there. It makes a lot of sense.

  21. Kim permalink
    October 6, 2010

    As it is, science is a double-edged sword. People just have to be moderate and extra careful in how science and technology directs their lives. Not all that sounds interesting are worth trying.

  22. Top 10 Christmas gifts 2010 permalink
    October 19, 2010

    you are so right , but I have seen alot of companies that have gone green with toys and that is great.

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    August 2, 2011

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  24. Fine jewellery Sydney permalink
    August 21, 2011

    Great, what an informative blog. Everything here are so nice.

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