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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ban proposed on toy jewelry containing lead

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

State health regulators this morning called for a ban on necklaces, bracelets, and other toy jewelry containing dangerously high levels of lead.

Tests performed by the state Department of Public Health found that some of the trinkets, which investigators purchased in stores across Massachusetts, possessed lead levels thousands of times higher than permitted. High lead levels in children have been linked to learning problems and other medical conditions.

State law forbids lead in paint applied to toys and jewelry but neither Massachusetts nor federal regulations cover lead in the metal and plastic contents of toy jewelry, leaving children vulnerable, Suzanne Condon, director of the state's Bureau of Environmental Health, said during a meeting of the state Public Health Council.

"I can remember as a child putting my necklace in my mouth," Condon said. "It's a rare thing if you don't see children with these things in their mouth."

Condon said 79 pieces of toy jewelry were tested and more than 10 percent had high rates of lead. That finding led health regulators to draft the proposed ban, which must be approved by the Public Health Council.

Members of the panel this morning expressed enthusiasm for the prohibition and suggested that regulators consider expanding it to other products potentially containing lead. If the ban is adopted, the state plans regular spot checks to make sure dangerous products aren't being sold, Condon said.

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