'Tis the season of festive accessories. Got your pair of shiny red patent leather shoes on the cheap for that holiday party? Check. A brightly colored bag from your local fast-fashion joint for NYE? Of course. But, what if these low-cost little pops of color were compromising your health big time?
The New York Times reports that many of our cheaply made accessories could contain dangerously high levels of lead. Lead has been used in coloring processes since the Middle Ages and it's often the most bright and shiny hues that contain the most of the toxic metal. The NYT warns that "even at very low levels, it has been linked to nervous system damage, cardiovascular problems, kidney failure, and many other health problems."
Following a 2010 lawsuit, retailers agreed to a standard lead limit for accessories: 200 p.p.m. for leather goods and 300 p.p.m. for vinyl products. However, The Center For Environmental Health (which oversees the compliance of retailers) has found levels far in excess of the "safe" levels from some chains. The offenders? Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, and Forever 21. In 2013, these stores all sold accessories found to contain over 10,000 p.p.m. lead — over 50 times the supposed limit. Target and H&M had no violations.
While the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association claims that the permissible levels are set lower than necessary to maintain consumer safety, many in the medical community maintain that there are no safe levels of lead in our everyday products. So, the next time you're thinking a $10 clutch would really put your outfit over the top, consider it, and its source, carefully. It might cost you more than you think. (The New York Times)