They look innocuous enough: a kid's ring with a colorful, cartoony owl; a pair of beaded bracelets, one reading "Best," the other "Friends," to be shared by devoted BFFs.
But the jewelry, and many similar pieces made for children, are anything but harmless, according to a new study released by two environmental groups. When researchers tested that cute owl for the presence of toxic chemicals, they found high levels of bromine—which has been linked to fertility and learning issues, among other problems, and is commonly used in flame-retardant materials—as well as four other toxic chemicals: chlorine, lead, arsenic and mercury.
Meanwhile, best friends who share the bracelets will also be sharing high levels of lead—linked to brain damage, learning disabilities, and reproductive and neurological problems—as well as lower levels of chlorine, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and bromine, according to the study results.
The researchers bought both the items in Holyoke, at Claire's, a chain jewelry and accessories store for kids and teens. A third piece bought at the same store, a "best friends" necklace, tested positive for mercury, chlorine, cadmium, arsenic and bromine....
...For companies to offer as a defense their compliance with federal regulations is "sort of an empty statement," said Elizabeth Saunders of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. "The only chemical that's federally regulated is lead." That means a company can satisfy federal regulations by limiting lead while still selling kids' products with dangerous components such as arsenic and mercury, she noted.
"We have this myth in the United States that we're being protected by the government," Saunders said. "It's funny, because people don't trust the government in many other ways, but they do seem to trust the government in this way—they expect that their products are safe."