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Bill would ban sale of lead-based children’s jewelry

By JOHN GRYBOS
Legislative Gazette Staff Writer
Many New York parents are fully aware of the dangers of lead paint chips in older buildings and take precautions to protect their children. But parents may not know that inexpensive jewelry purchased at discount stores is often loaded with lead. Clean New York’s organizing director, Bobbi Chase Wilding, said lead and other harmful chemicals are found in many everyday objects. She reinforced her point by using an XRF Analyzer, a gun-shaped toxic detection tool, to show the presence of lead and bromide in the Albany office of Assemblyman David Koon, D-Rochester, last Tuesday.

Wilding pointed the analyzer at a chair in Koon’s office, and the tool quickly detected bromide in the fabric. Bromide is a flame retardant that has been shown to cause damage to the liver and thyroid and can delay brain development in small children.

Koon has drafted legislation that would ban the sale of children’s jewelry with any more than trace amounts of lead by March 1, 2008. The bill would also establish penalties for non-compliant vendors. First time offenders would be fined no more than $100, but subsequent infractions would incur fines of up to $2500 for each violation. Wilding also used the analyzer on some cheap jewelry she’d brought along, one piece from her own childhood collection.

Trinkets purchased with pocket change can contain as much as 95 percent lead, according to research by New York state Pathologist Ward Stone. Stone first became concerned when he noticed his 10-year-old daughter had been collecting a lot of small, cheap jewelry in the shape of Chinese characters as party favors. “I don’t want lead going into my kids where it’s going to steal their neurons,” said Stone. Lead can cause brain damage to fetuses and young children, lowering IQ and creating behavioral problems.

Stone said it’s important to craft legislation with all age groups in mind, and not only target jewelry for children. “A piece of jewelry for an older person, a moment later, can become jewelry for children as well.” When caring for a young child, adults often give kids makeshift toys to play with. Keys are commonly used as a toddler distraction, but jewelry is frequently given to kids as a play toy as well.

Stone is an adjunct professor at SUNY Cobleskill where he teaches environmental science. His environmental toxicology class sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-Brooklyn, earlier this month detailing an experiment in which they searched for lead in cheap jewelry. The class tested samples obtained from local dollar stores. According to the letter, “Enough lead was discovered to deliver a lethal dose to any person that would consume any one piece of our test sample.” Stone also pointed out that much of the products are foreign-made, mostly in China.

Judy Braiman, president of Rochestarians Against the Misuse of Pesticides, or RAMP, said standards overseas may not meet those in the United States. RAMP conducted an experiment much like Stone’s, and their discovery of lead in cheap jewelry prompted retailers to remove some of the offending ornamentation from their shelves. Thirty percent of lead children encounter is found in sources other than the classic enemy, lead paint, said Braiman. She said when RAMP asked retailers to stop carrying any lead jewelry because of the harm it causes children, the response was often, “well, they’re not children’s products, they’re for adults.”

Last Wednesday, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office announced high levels of lead had been found in baby bibs sold at Wal-Mart stores. The colorfully designed bibs, some adorned with Sesame Street characters, are made with vinyl and cloth. Wal-Mart has removed the bibs from its stores as of March 29 and will phase out baby’s products containing vinyl.

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May 1, 2007
Lead Testing

Posted By: Kristin Lowman

The battle to get lead based children’s jewelry continues in the Capital region. Now, Clean New York is revealing lead and toxic flame retardants are found in many common home, office, and personal products.

The organization used a special instrument to test furniture, mattresses, electronics, and jewelry in offices and homes and found high levels of both lead and bromine. Clean New York is now urging New York state to use healthier alternatives for products owned by New Yorkers.

A bill will also be introduced in the State Assembly on Wednesday, banning lead based children’s jewelry from stores. For more information on safer alternatives for your home, visit the Safer Products Project.