Lead and cadmium in children's jewellery

Could your child's jewellery be dangerous?

A soft, inexpensive metal, lead is often used in making costume jewellery. Wearing jewellery containing lead does not cause harm -- but sucking, chewing on or swallowing it can cause many harmful effects to children's bodies, including death.

Jewellery that is painted or has a top coating does not make it safer for children: the coating can be chewed or worn off. One of the big challenges with lead is that it has a sweet taste, which can encourage kids to put it in their mouths.

Cadmium may be increasingly substituted for lead in making costume jewellery. Again, there is no known risk associated with wearing jewellery that contains cadmium, but sucking, chewing on or swallowing it may cause very serious health effects for children.

Safety tips

  • Inspect your children's jewellery. Items made with a high percentage of lead are heavy for their size.
  • If you are concerned that a children's jewellery item may contain lead or cadmium throw it away in your regular household waste.
  • Do not give young children adult jewellery to wear or play with; it may contain lead or cadmium.
  • Don't let kids suck or chew on any jewellery.
  • If your child has sucked or chewed regularly on jewellery and you think it may contain lead or cadmium, ask your doctor to test your child's blood.
  • A child who swallows jewellery containing lead or cadmium is at high risk of developing serious and potentially life-threatening health effects. Contact an emergency medical service immediately.
  • Check for product recalls by contacting the retailer or manufacturer or check Recalls and Safety Alerts.

Fast Fact

It is illegal to import, advertise or sell jewellery designed for children under 15 years of age if it contains more than the allowable lead limits set out in Canadian regulations.

Health Canada has requested that industry stop intentionally using cadmium in children's jewellery, and is closely monitoring levels of cadmium in children's jewellery items marketed in Canada.

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