Do plastic Mardi Gras beads have an unsafe levels of Lead and Cadmium?

Purple Plastic Mardi Gras Beads from New Orleans Mardi Gras 2012.

When tested with an XRF instrument the plastic beads pictured had the following toxicant readings:

  • Lead (Pb): 315 ppm
  • Cadmium (Cd): 132 ppm
  • Arsenic (As): Negative/ Non-Detect
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative/ Non-Detect

For more XRF test results of beads I have tested, click here.

The amount of lead that is considered toxic in an item intended for children is anything 90 parts per million (ppm) or higher. On the outside of the bags that Mardi Gras beads come in they are labeled with a warning that says “Not intended for children under 12 years old.” However the individual strands are not required to be labeled (given they are not being sold as a child’s toy.)

Read more about Cadmium here,

The only Mardi Gras beads that I have personally tested that were consistently lead free are new ones from Disney Land or Disney World.

Aside from the possibility of safe Mardi Gras beads from Disneyland, I always recommend avoiding giving these to children to play with.  The Lead can be in both the coating (the exterior paint/colorant) and some of the substrate (plastic). The coating will often chip or peel with regular play use by children.  Children also frequently can be seen putting beads like this in their mouth, making them especially dangerous if they are high Lead.

For safer choices for beads for your children check out this post.

The XRF test results here (shown with this particular set of beads) is on the low side for toxicants. Most of the Mardi Gras beads that I have tested and found to be positive for Lead and Cadmium were positive at much higher levels.

For #SaferChoices for Jewelry (for adults and children) click here.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tamara Rubin

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