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ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A new research study finds that top retailers of Mardi Gras beads continue to sell beads and throws that contain hazardous chemicals. Researchers found both new and used beads have one or more hazardous chemicals that have been linked to serious health threats. The study is collaboration between HealthyStuff.org (a project of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit organization, the Ecology Center) and VerdiGras (a nonprofit organization in New Orleans dedicated to greening Mardi Gras).
In the last year the Ecology Center researchers tested a total of 135 Mardi Gras beads (87 previously used and 48 new) for substances that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. Products tested included beaded necklaces and throws collected from New Orleans and new Mardi Gras beads purchased from three bead wholesalers.
"Millions of pounds of these beads are distributed during Mardi Gras and our study finds that both new and used are beads loaded with toxic chemicals," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's principle researcher. "Unfortunately a gaping hole in our regulatory system makes it perfectly legal for these products to be sold." Environmentalist and public health advocates have called for a comprehensive reform of the Toxics Substance Control Act to address these issues.
The study found that over 90% of all the beads contained at least one of these harmful chemicals, lead, hazardous flame retardants, arsenic or cadmium. Nearly eighty percent of the beads contained 400 ppm of bromine, suggesting the use of halogenated flame retardants. Over two-thirds (71% - 34 of 48) of the Mardi Gras beads tested exceed 100 part per million (ppm) of lead, which is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) federal safety limit for lead in children's products.
"It is disturbing to see products as enticing to children as Mardi Gras and holiday beads containing such high amounts of lead," said Howard W. Mielke, PhD, a study collaborator and professor at Tulane University School of Medicine. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are emphasizing that the only way to reduce a child's exposure to lead and other toxicants is through prevention, yet children love these beads and often put them in their mouths. Eliminating preventable sources of lead in products is an important way to prevent human exposure to all sources of lead."
"This report raises significant concerns not only for community celebrations around the country including New Orleans. It also raises concerns for the Chinese workers who melt down the plastic that goes into these products," said Holly Groh, M.D. and one of the founders of VerdiGras. "As a New Orleans residents, the hazards present in the beads and throws shocked my husband and me. We hope manufacturers will be more cautious with what goes into their products because of the findings of this report and, until the market cleans up, we encourage people to take precautions when handling the beads and throws."
HealthyStuff.org recommends common sense precautions when handling these products because they may contain hazardous substances. Do not allow children (or adults) to put beads in their mouths. Wash your hands after handling the beads. Bring baby wipes to the parade to wipe children's hands after catching and playing with beads and before eating. Wash the beads that have been caught, especially if they were lying on the ground. Never burn the beads and do not store them in sunlight. People who regularly handle beads or recycle beads should wear gloves.
Jeff Gearhart, 734-369-9276 or 734-945-7738
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