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Beware of toxic trinkets

  • Published at 07:20 pm August 13th, 2016
Beware of toxic trinkets
These cheap, glossy and colourful accessories have been found to contain toxic elements like mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic that vaporise in room temperature and permeate through the skin. A survey by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) has also found that customers were mostly unaware that these substances cause a number of ailments among children as well as adults. The survey looked at 67 jewellery items — 32 for adult and 35 for children. Samples of these accessory items including earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, chains, bangles were collected from malls in Dhaka and Chittagong and tested in EARTH XRF laboratory in Bangkok. Tests showed that most of the earrings contained arsenic and lead in high levels and mercury in medium level. Accessories like bangles and pendants that continuously rub against the skin give off toxic vapours that poison the body. Children sucking or chewing on such items are naturally under more serious risk. Besides causing stunting in children, these heavy metals may also cause kidney failure, cancers of skin, lung and prostate and some other diseases. The study found that seven out of every ten consumers did not know about the risks of using these items. Most of them, about 55%, said some of those items had caused skin rash. Only 15 % of the retailers surveyed were aware of the use of toxic elements in jewellery. In Bangladesh, there are no significant regulations on the use of toxic substances in jewellery. Neither are these covered by the Environment Conservation Act. There is a general law against hazardous substance use in manufacturing. The Bangladesh Environment Act 1995 reads, “Hazardous substance means a substance, the chemical or bio-chemical properties of which are such that its manufacture, storage, discharge or unregulated transportation can be harmful to the Environment.” The study recommended the government to formulate an act banning the import and manufacture of jewellery with toxic substances that may cause harm. Authorities concerned should make a list of stores selling tainted jewellery and act immediately. Jewellery-Infograph The survey also recommends raising mass awareness of not just consumers but also retailers and importers, warning labels on packets of such products and promotion of eco-friendly alternative jewellery. Gold plated and fancy jewellery are a cheaper and an easy replacement for precious or high-end jewellery. As a result, people are now fond of such jewellery. Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of ESDO, said: “The consumers and producers have little knowledge about the toxins in jewellery. We have carried out the research for the first time in Bangladesh to make people aware of the issue. Children usually chew whatever they get in their hands. So toxic jewellery are very risky for children.” He said the government should consider the issue very seriously to ensure safe health for everyone. Anwar Hossain, president of Bangladesh Jewellery Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said: “Mass awareness is must. In this case, UN and states could work together to address the issue. If people became aware of it then the manufacturers will also be aware and will go for alternatives.” Hossain also said imitation jewellery items are used widely in Bangladesh as gold price is comparatively high. Dermatologist Prof Dr MN Huda said if there are toxins in imitation jewellery, they would be absorbed into the body through the skin. The chemicals from the jewellery would first affect the skin when they come into contact. “Then the toxins will affect the liver and then the kidneys. Children are especially vulnerable to this,” he added. Huda also said people were not much aware of this issue. “But we often get patients saying they cannot use imitation jewellery. This is very alarming,” he said.
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