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6 Ways to protect kids from toxic jewelry

You may not be such a bad mom after all when you tell your daughter she can’t have that cheap necklace she’s been nagging you about at the mall. A new CBC Marketplace investigation reveals that much of the cheap jewelry targeted at young girls by major retailers is actually toxic. Researchers tested the jewelry and found it contained high levels of cadmium — a dangerous chemical that’s been dubbed “the new lead.”

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Cadmium is a cancer-causing chemical that can damage kidney functions, cause bone loss and have other wide-reaching effects: “Any major system in your body can be harmed by cadmium,” James Van Loon — director of risk management at Health Canada’s consumer product safety branch — told CBC. The toxic chemical compound shouldn’t be in children’s jewelry at all, said Van Loon, given that kids’ bodies absorb cadmium more easily than adults’ bodies.

The results of the Marketplace investigation are pretty scary: One pendant on an Ardene necklace contained 100 per cent cadmium, while a charm from a cheap Aldo bracelet clocked in at 69 per cent cadmium (6,000 times the levels Health Canada says are safe).

“The results were astonishing,” said Dr. Gérald Zagury, a specialist on heavy metals in jewelry who performed the tests for Marketplace, adding that the Ardene necklace was “pretty much pure cadmium.”

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So what’s a concerned parent or aunty to do? Follow these tips to keep kids safe from toxic jewelry: 

1. Pay attention to the materials on the label

You should look for jewelry made with safe materials like wool felt, wood, glass beads, paper and cotton thread.

2. Know how to read between the lines

Jewelry that’s labeled “not for children” is sometimes full of heavy metals. While you may think your kid or teenager is mature enough to wear the jewelry, don’t disregard the label.

3. Communicate with friends and family

Make sure to tell anyone who will be looking after your child not to buy her or him cheap jewelry from coin-operated machines (no matter how much your kid begs!). Often the cheapest jewelry is the most dangerous.

4. Buy jewelry made in Canada

Much of the jewelry found to contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium is made in China. Health Canada has set firm guidelines to keep unsafe levels of cadmium out of jewelry, so buy Canadian whenever possible.

5. Educate yourself about potential risks

Luckily, Marketplace found there was no cadmium in any of the jewelry from H&M, whereas stores such as Ardene and Aldo were found to use unsafe levels of cadmium (though following the investigation, they’re now promising to change their ways). Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re out shopping. And you can check out a full list of toxic chemicals found in consumer goods that are harmful to children in this report by the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

6. Get crafty

Why not buy your own nontoxic materials and make your own jewelry? Whip out materials like clay beads, paper and feathers and make an event of crafting together. Check out these ideas from Moms & Crafters and be sure to check the materials that you buy, like paints and beads, are nontoxic.

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