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Avoid Buying Toxic Jewelry for Kids This Holiday Season

Avoid Buying Toxic Jewelry for Kids This Holiday Season

If you're buying jewelry for a little girl this holiday season, take steps to make sure you're not giving gifts that contain hazardous substances

One step might be to look at where you buy the jewelry. A recent report by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) shows that Walmart is selling jewelry with alarmingly high levels of lead.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Lead is highly toxic to the developing brain and there is no safe level of exposure, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Adverse effects can include decreased IQ levels, increased ADHD and increased hearing impairment as blood lead levels increase. 

WTC purchased a variety of jewelry such as earrings, necklaces and bracelets labeled “Distributed by Wal-mart Stores, Inc.” in August. Many of the jewelry purchased has sparkly, brightly colored designs that appeal to young girls.

WTC found that eight out of 34 (almost 25 percent) of Walmart jewelry tested contained levels of lead ranging from 7,748 ppm (parts per million) to 357,790 ppm—which made the pieces more than one-third lead. That is 300 times the federal limit of 100 ppm for children’s products.

MomsRising, during its #EcoTipTue tweet chat this week, gathered tips from WTC and Non-Toxic Kids about how to avoid toxins in jewelry and take action to spread the word and protect others.

Here are the eight top tips from the chat:

  1. Speak up to retailers. Ask if their jewelry is lead-free and demand safer products.
  2. Buy jewelry only from reputable companies that you trust. One tip is to buy nothing under $10—but even then we can’t be sure.
  3. Look for (or make your own) jewelry from silver, gold, beads, or cloth.
  4. Avoid jewelry labeled “Not for children,” which could be hiding lead or other heavy metals.
  5. Spread the word: tell neighbors, grandparents or anyone who will listen that trinkets from coin machines, Walmart, or Claire’s may be harmful.
  6. Call on Walmart to protect child health and only sell safe, lead-free jewelry. Until they do—don’t buy it.
  7. Encourage kids to wash hands frequently and keep jewelry out of their mouths.
  8. Purge your child’s costume jewelry every so often and keep the safer choices.
  9. Teach 'tweens and teens about this issue—and how it can affect them. Instead of simply telling them they can’t have the jewelry, engage with youth on the issue. Join with them to encourage better choices.
  10. Consider a safer, high-quality piece of jewelry when buying gifts for family and friends.

WTC is calling on Walmart to act to protect public health, especially children, through these actions:

  • Immediately remove these lead-containing jewelry products from its stores.
  • Commit to a timeline for phasing out Mind the Store’s list of Hazardous Hundred chemicals, which includes lead, from all of its products.

In addition, WTC is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate these products for compliance in accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and to take appropriate enforcement action.

"With everything we know about the devastating, costly effects of exposure to lead, it is unconscionable that such high levels were found in the products they sell,” said Erika Schreder, WTC science director.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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