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Health Canada announces regulations for lead content

Most jewelry doesn’t have labels detailing the metal mix

June 17, 2008
By Canadian Vending


TORONTO (CP) – Most jewelry doesn’t have labels detailing the metal
mixture, so new regulations announced in June limiting lead content in
children’s jewelry mean that buyers still must beware.

TORONTO (CP) – Most jewelry doesn’t have labels detailing the metal mixture, so new regulations announced in June limiting lead content in children’s jewelry mean that buyers still must beware.

“When buying children’s costume jewelry I would check with the retailer before buying it. If the retailer cannot provide assurance that the item is lead free: Don’t buy it,” said Health Canada spokesman Paul Duchesne.
In Ottawa, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh announced new regulations that will limit lead content in children’s jewelry that is imported, advertised or sold in Canada.

“The government has taken a positive step towards protecting the health of children by enacting these regulations,” Dosanjh said in a prepared statement


Some distributors of costume jewelry produced in Canada complied with warnings sent by Health Canada in 1999. But a retail survey of children’s costume jewelry in May and June 2000 found some jewelry still contained high levels of lead, so Ottawa decided to bring in regulations.

Now the maximum permitted limits for children’s jewelry are 600 mg/kg total lead and 90 mg/kg migratable lead (lead that can move out of an object into surrounding solvent such as saliva). Children’s jewelry is defined as items intended to attract and appeal to a child under the age of 15.

Vancouver-based children’s clothier Please Mum said their current stock doesn’t contain any jewelry, but it has in the past.

“We purchase it from a third party and we use really reputable suppliers,” said Linda Fox, project managing director at Please Mum, adding that they will probably carry children’s jewelry in the future and are already making note of the new regulations about lead content.

“(We are) already partnering with Health Canada and are very much in touch with some of the representatives from our suppliers … making sure we have a quality control process in place that will touch every facet of the company that’s involved: design development and production,” Fox said.

Without labels telling consumers how much lead is in a particular item, it is up to consumers to figure it out. There are some telltale signs that jewelry has a high lead content. Pure lead is heavy, soft, dark bluish grey in colour and has a dull surface. Jewelry with a very high lead content tends to be thicker and the shape or design may not be as delicate as jewelry made of stronger metals. Items with a high oncentration of lead leave a greyish mark when wiped with a white piece of paper.

Trying to legislate that children’s jewelry be made without any lead would be cost prohibitive, and much of the costume jewelry on the Canadian market contains lead. Such a prohibition would result in less choice for the consumer, since many manufacturers would not be willing to produce lead-free jewelry for the relatively small Canadian market.

Lead is a soft, inexpensive and easily worked metal that has been used for centuries to make jewelry and other decorative items. But it has been found to be toxic, especially in children and even at low levels as it accumulates in the body. Elevated lead levels can interfere with intellectual development and behaviour of children. To make matters worse, it has a sweet flavour – which makes it more attractive to children who suck jewelry or put it in their mouths.

Health Canada became aware of the problem in 1998, when a five-year-old developed elevated blood lead levels after sucking on a pendant made of pure lead covered with a decorative coating. Similar incidents were reported in the United States. After an Oregon child developed lead poisoning after swallowing a pendant bought in a vending machine, the U.S. and Canada recalled the item.