This summer my friend Katie gave us free tickets to go the Oregon Renaissance Festival (what a treat – we never had gone in our 17+ years of living in Oregon!) My 11-year-old son had scrimped and saved, and brought all his savings – $15.00 in spending money with him – hoping to find a treasure to bring home. He loved looking at all of the art…the handmade glass beads; the fairy wings; the hats; the swords; the wood carvings; the jewelry – so much exciting stuff!
We have a very strict agreement in place: that if he wants to choose something to buy, he has to get my approval first – because I don’t want him accidentally buying something that might have Lead. He showed me this necklace (as well as the coin, posted earlier), and asked if he could buy them with his money. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to buy this necklace; I told him (from having tested hundreds of similar pieces) that it was likely to be 30,000 to 40,000 ppm Lead (which is a very dangerous amount of Lead) and I asked him to find something else (“perhaps one of the colorful handmade glass beads shaped like a turtle or a fish?”). He said he just wanted that mermaid so badly!
Big brother, Avi (14-1/2, brain injury from Lead exposure as a baby) started having a massive fit [about not being able to handle the smell and the noise and other sensory overloads for him at the festival], and he took off towards the parking lot. I told my husband that I wanted him to “help Charlie pick out a Lead-free souvenir” while I took care of Avi and I left.
Charlie then proceeded to tell my husband that I had approved the purchase of the coins and the necklace(!), and so, assuming they had my seal of approval (not realizing he was being hoodwinked), he earnestly assisted Charlie as he bought these “forbidden” trinkets from the clueless vendor [who – when my well-trained hubby dutifully inquired – even “confirmed” with the other person in the tent, and returned with the assurance that, “no sir — all of our jewelry is 100% Lead-free!”].
I did not realize any of this until we got home (nearly an hour’s drive!) I didn’t flip out (after I talked to my husband and figured out what happened), but I did use it as a teaching moment, and Charlie learned a big lesson — having spent his entire savings – $15 – on things I explicitly told him he could not have, and then in the end only being allowed to keep $2.00 worth of the stuff (the two coins that were negative for heavy metal toxicants), he is not likely to ever do that again. He now knows (definitively) that Mommy doesn’t actually need an XRF in hand to know if something is likely Leaded!
While teaching my own son two important lessons at once is lovely (“no means no”, and “Mom knows what she’s talking about when she warns that some lovely, alluring piece of magical art may actually be dangerous!), my greater concerns are as follows:
- The lady at the booth initially told my son these items were “Lead-free”.
- I took him away some distance and explained that she did not understand that they had Lead, and that she was not correct in her statements about the items she was selling.
- These completely unregulated items are being sold to children at fairs and festivals around the country with no regulatory labeling or warnings.
- Children hold and fidget with these things and the appealing talismans, charms, etc. on string necklaces often end up in the mouth when worn by a child who has a habit of fidgeting. This is enough Lead exposure to actually poison a child.
- In 2012 for my film, I worked with the family of a young girl (she was about 10 years old) in New Orleans – who had a Blood Lead Level of 9.9. It turned out that her home was Lead-free [it had been totally professionally gutted and remodeled after Katrina, and subsequently tested.]; it was eventually determined that her likely source of exposure was from sucking on a Leaded necklace charm much like this one — a charm that she wore every day and fidgeted with.
- 45,000 ppm Lead (see below) is an enormous amount of Lead – given the amount of Lead that is considered toxic in a newly manufactured item intended for use by children is anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate (90 ppm in the paint, glaze or coating.)
- A child would likely die if they swallowed one of these charms (luckily this mermaid is well-beyond swallowing size — but there were several variations that were swallowing-size at the same booth).
- In addition to a high level of Lead, this mermaid necklace charm also has a high level of Antimony – a known carcinogen.
- The big question: How is it these vendors are allowed to sell these toxic products without any oversight at all and with impunity?
When tested with an XRF instrument the necklace charm pictured here had the following readings:
- Lead (Pb): 45,100 +/- 1,400 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 19,500 +/- 1,000 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 913,000 +/- 4,400 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 17,200 +/- 1,400 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 3,938 +/- 340 ppm
This item was tested for a minimum of 60 seconds, and tested multiple times to confirm the results. Testing is done with an XRF instrument used in “Consumer Goods” mode. Results are science-based, accurate, and replicable. The XRF used is the same instrument used by the United States Consumer Product Safety commission for testing consumer goods for toxicity.
I always recommend that if you are going to buy jewelry like this for children, please consider spending the extra for – and confirming that it is – something made out of sterling silver (sterling silver jewelry will have the “925” mark pressed somewhere easily visible into the the charm) Here’s my post about safer choices in Jewelry.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.