Beware: Some Heart-Shaped Pendants May Bring Not Romance, But Toxic Harm

Bracelet charms and pendants in the shape of a heart, the popular symbol of love and romance found in almost all Valentine’s gifts, may spell serious trouble for the people you care for.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health watchdog tracking toxins in consumer products, shared this observation after detecting  huge quantities of cadmium and lead in some low-cost bracelets for adolescents and adults with heart-fashioned metal pendants. 

The group’s latest probe was prompted by Sweden’s withdrawal from the market of 17 types of imported jewelry this January for violating the European Union’s limits for cadmium and lead in jewelry at 0.01 percent and 0.05 percent by weight, respectively.

According to published notifications, “cadmium is classified as harmful if swallowed, if inhaled or if in contact with the skin” and that “lead is harmful to human health and hazardous to the environment.”

Cadmium and lead may be present in jewelry as part of metal alloys, as solder, or as pigment or stabilizer in non-metal components.

Out of 12 types of bracelets obtained from fashion jewelry vendors in Divisoria and Quiapo from P40 to P150 each, eight were found to contain cadmium in the range of 15% to 32%, and lead from 3.5% to 36%.

The group used a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device to screen the samples for toxic metals.

“Cadmium and lead were detected mostly on the heart-shaped pendants that are small enough for young children to swallow by mistake,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. 

“For example, the pendant with the highest lead content is about the size of the M&M chocolate candies,” he said. 

“While the jewelry samples were not made for young children, it’s possible for these attractive articles or their components to land on children’s curious hands.  Cadmium and lead can enter their developing bodies when they place their hands or objects in their mouths,” he noted.

Jewelry laden with cadmium and/or lead poses a real safety issue, especially if chewed, sucked or swallowed by young children, which can result in the absorption of dangerous levels of cadmium or lead, Dizon pointed out.

He cited the case of four-year old Jarnell Brown from Minnesota, USA who passed away in 2006 few days after swallowing by accident a heart-shaped charm of a leaded bracelet.

Cadmium is classified as “carcinogenic to humans,” while lead, a potent neurotoxin that is toxic even at very low levels of exposure can bring about learning disabilities, behavioral problems, organ failure and even death.

Cadmium and lead are among the priority chemicals determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace, and the environment.” 

The World Health Organization has also listed cadmium and lead among the  “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

To protect consumers from being exposed to cadmium and lead in jewelry, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to regulate toxic metals in jewelry as they do in Europe and the USA and impose a labeling requirement to help consumers identify which products are compliant and safe.

“The fact that the other four jewelry samples were negative for cadmium or lead is a concrete proof that it’s possible to make products free of these toxic metals,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.