Monday 22 December 2014

Christmas ornaments, children's toys found to be heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals, heavy metals


'Tis the season to be leery.

Experts have issued a series of warnings about several holiday decorations and children's toys which have been found to be heavily contaminated with heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, the items aren't just limited to one small store; instead, they're linked to a slew of popular chains.

In a nutshell, researchers urge being very mindful of what's purchased at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger, Dollar Tree, CVS and Lowe's. According to experts at an environmental non-profit, The Ecology Center, two-thirds of the 69 seasonal holiday products they tested were laden with at least one hazardous chemical.(1)

Beaded garlands, for example, were found to contain a "multitude of toxic contaminants," according to press release., which was created by The Ecology Center, houses information based on research from many environmental health organizations and others around the country in an effort to keep the public aware of such occurrences.(2,3)


Other details, listed by store, product and toxicity levels, are as follows:
  • Walgreen's retailed Santa Hanging Decor: 1,400 ppm bromine, 1,300 ppm chlorine, 290 ppm antimony.
  • Lowe's retailed Beaded Garland: 11,000 ppm bromine, 16,000 ppm chlorine, 600 ppm lead, 2,100 ppm antimony.
  • Lowe's retailed Silver Bells: 120,000 ppm chlorine, 370 ppm lead, 290 ppm antimony.
  • Kroger retailed Red Bead Garland: 13,000 ppm bromine, 17,000 ppm chlorine, 140 ppm lead, 3,900 ppm antimony, 150 ppm tin.
  • Kroger retailed Silver Jingle Bell Door Hanger: 150 ppm arsenic, 1,900 ppm chlorine, 170 ppm lead, 1,500 ppm tin.
  • Walmart retailed Poinsettia Wreath: 900 ppm bromine, 6,500 ppm chlorine, 830 ppm lead, 230 ppm antimony.
  • Target retailed Decorative Tree: 1,400 ppm chlorine and 2,100 ppm lead.
  • Target retailed Holiday Swag Bundle: 2,400 ppm bromine, 24,700 ppm chlorine, 670 ppm antimony, 152 ppm tin.
  • CVS retailed 18 foot Lighted Garland: 65,800 ppm bromine, 310,000 ppm chlorine, 170 ppm lead, 10,200 ppm antimony, 2,300 ppm tin.
  • Dollar Tree retailed Decorative Bows: 426,000 ppm chlorine, 1,100 ppm tin.(2)
Sadly, these toxic chemicals and heavy metals are associated with a wide range of health problems from birth defects and learning disabilities to cancer and liver toxicity. "Scientists that study these chemicals are telling us that even smaller exposures are of concern for hormone-disrupting chemicals such as these," said Mike Schade of Safer Chemicals. "Evidence continues to pile up that shows even babies are affected by exposure to these chemicals in the womb."(1)

Shockingly, many home decorations are legally allowed to forgo labeling that indicates the presence of such harmful chemicals. So long as a product is not labeled as being meant for use by children, then informing the public of its lead, phthalate and cadmium levels is not necessary. "The sad truth is that our chemical safety system is fundamentally broken," said Schade.(1)

Such harmful materials aren't just confined to holiday decorations, either. Many children's toys are also harboring harmful materials.


Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) released a report called "Toxic Tidings," outlining findings from the Albany-based nonprofit Clean and Healthy New York. Much like the aforementioned decorations, they too, pose health hazards that can result in neurological, physical and behavioral problems. However, unlike the holiday decorations, the hazardous materials found in children's toys were primarily cadmium and cobalt, and discovered mainly in dollar stores.(4)

The following children's toys were identified in Klein's report as having health-jeopardizing materials:
  • Pencil cases decorated with Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer tested positive for cadmium and cobalt.
  • A Spider-Man puzzle contained cobalt (also found in a set of Gerber onesies).
  • A Hello Kitty charm necklace contained cobalt; a ring set contained cadmium and cobalt; and a Hello Kitty charm bracelet contained antimony and cobalt.(4)
Klein, who is an advocate of the Child Safe Products Act, stated, "Companies are able to make children's products without toxic chemicals -- that means they have no excuse for not doing so."(4)

Obviously, awareness and avoidance of these products in particular -- decorations and toys alike -- is advised. It's a shame that such unhealthy materials exist in these and other items in the first place, but until more studies, scrutiny and stronger regulations come into place, the best that people can do is to remain aware, voice their opinions and not purchase these or other harmful products.







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