Gold Plastic Mardi Gras Beads from 2014.
In 2014 I did an outreach event at the Charleston Children’s Museum and did XRF testing of consumer goods for folks who came to the museum that day.
A nanny came up to my table pushing a toddler in her stroller and I noticed the toddler had these beads around her neck and that she was chewing on them.
In talking to the nanny I mentioned that beads like this could often be high lead. The nanny then told me that the little girl had actually just been tested for lead (with a blood test) and was positive. She asked me to test the beads for her.
When tested with an XRF instrument the plastic beads pictured had the following reading:
- Lead (Pb): 1,127 ppm
- [This was in 2014 before I started regularly noting the presence of toxicants other than lead, so I don’t have notes as to whether or not these particular beads tested positive for any other heavy metals.]
To see more Mardi Gras 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.)
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 the possible levels of toxicants in Mardi Gras beads. 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.
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Please let me know if you have any questions.