Thousands of toys and children’s costume jewellery items were recalled in Toronto, after Toronto Star investigation found they contained extremely high levels of lead. In some cases, lead levels exceeded legal limits 450 times.
Lead was found in about one in every four products bought at 18 retailers in the Greater Toronto Area.
Most of the toys were made in China.
For example, a scrapbook charm sold at Dollarama was so poisonous Health Canada determined a child could die from swallowing the penny-sized bauble. “Super Dooper Charms” jewellery-making kit was recalled by the government in July 2008 but was sold in stores and online nevertheless.
Another lead-contaminated item was a baby pacifier that was sold at Everything For a Dollar in Scarborough. Who knows how many babies were sucking on lead dummies for months!
A Hannah Montana bracelet bought at Wal-Mart was loaded with lead. Toronto Star tested the bracelet’s rhinestones using two high-tech methods and found lead at 445 times the legal limit.
Toxic amounts of lead were found in “Lead Free” jewellery kits, cuddly stuffed animal dressed as a Mountie, and thousands other toys.
More than 900 of the lead-containing baby items had been distributed nationwide since January 2006.
Health Minister Tony Clement called the Star’s findings “deeply disturbing” and said enforcement of leaded products is not good enough.
Experts say sucking on or mouthing a lead-laced toy can cause lead poisoning. Its symptoms, such as irritability, a drop in IQ and poor school performance, could easily be confused with other ailments.
Repeatedly sucking on or swallowing heavily leaded items can bring on a range of symptoms, from prolonged vomiting, diarrhea and cramping to possible death.
Here’s a part of the list of recalled products, as published by Parentingcentral.ca:
• An orange mini hockey stick with “Canada” painted on the shaft in black letters. The black paint contained 10 times the legal limit for lead. Health Canada said that since April, 3,240 of the sticks had been distributed to retailers nationwide.
• A jewellery kit bought at west-end toy store Animal Crackers. The kit, billed as “Lead Free,” contained a pendant that tested at nearly double the legal limit for lead in children’s jewellery. The necklace clasp tested at 150 times the limit. Health Canada says 5,940 of the kits have been sold across the country since September 2004.
• A pewter scrapbook charm sold at Dollarama that tested at 77 per cent lead. If swallowed, the penny-sized accessory – which has “laugh” engraved on one side – could be fatal. Health Canada said that 11,776 of the items hit Dollarama shelves starting in May 2007.
• A pacifier from the My Baby brand sold in Everything For a Dollar. The orange plastic mouthguard of the pacifier contained more than 10 times the proposed legal limit of lead. Health Canada announced that as a precautionary measure, importer OPC is extending the recall to include My Baby pacifiers with guards of all colours. About 10,000 of the pacifiers were sold from April 2007 to October 2008.
And current Canadian legislation does nothing to protect the children from lead.
Recalls are voluntary and it is up to the offending companies and parents to keep the dangerous items from children.
Health Canada has not punished a company for selling, importing or manufacturing dangerous children’s products in more than a decade.
As a Canadian expat, I am furious. There’s tolerance, frugality, and diversity, and there’s health and safety. Sometimes such things do not coexist.
[This post has been previously published on Toronto Fashion Monitor. I am a freelance contributor to TFM. ]