You probably heard about the big recall of Thomas the Tank Engine and Fisher Price toys containing lead. Did you know that lead is still being used in children’s jewelry, and being sold across the U.S.?
Unannounced federal inspections pinpointed the primary source of the threat: of the 17.9 million pieces of jewelry items pulled from the market since the start of 2005, 95 percent were made in China.
Jewelry is perhaps the most dangerous place for lead because children can swallow an entire ring or pendant, causing acute poisoning, which can cause respiratory failure, seizures and even death, whereas neurological damage and learning deficiencies are often associated with exposure to lead paint. Many children also tend to suck on jewelry or put it in their mouths, allowing lead to be absorbed into their bloodstream.
From 2000 to 2005, about 20,000 children turned up in emergency rooms after ingesting jewelry, according to a hospital surveillance program by the agency, though it is not know how many of those cases involved lead. These cheap products, made of lead because it is an inexpensive metal filler, also easily fall apart, making it even easier for a child to swallow a small part.
That is just what happened in 2003, when doctors in Oregon found a lead medallion that had beenpurchased from vending machine in the stomach of a young boy who had complained of abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
And last year, Jarnell Brown, a 4-year-old in Minneapolis, swallowed a heart-shaped charm that had been given away by Reebok International as a sales incentive on its children’s footwear. Jarnell died after suffering vomiting, seizures and respiratory arrest. During the autopsy, a charm imprinted with the Reebok logo was removed from his stomach.
To read the entire NYT article by Eric Lipton and Louise Story, click here.
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