Canadians Advised About Children's Potential Exposure To Lead

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health Canada is warning Canadians that children may be exposed to lead if they chew, suck on or swallow zipper pulls or cellphone charms which contain high levels of lead. The zipper pulls and cellphone charms were sold at Dollarama stores in Canada between July 2006 and August 2007, and have been voluntarily recalled by Dollarama.

To date, no cases of lead poisoning from these zipper pulls or cellphone charms have been reported in Canada.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal which can have harmful effects on the behaviour and development of children even at very low levels of exposure. Items which are made with a high percentage of lead are heavy for their size, and relatively soft. Lead is greyish in colour, but many jewellery items made of lead are covered by a protective or decorative coating so that the lead cannot be seen.


Health Canada is committed to eliminating unnecessary lead exposure in children. The Children's Jewellery Regulations, which came into force in 2005, makes it illegal to import, advertise or sell in Canada children's jewellery items which contain more than 600 mg/kg total lead and 90 mg/kg migratable lead.

There is no lead exposure risk associated with using these items for their intended purpose, but anyone sucking, chewing, or swallowing these items would be exposed to high levels of lead. The decorative coatings on the items do not protect against lead exposure from the underlying lead because the coatings wear off easily if the item is sucked or chewed.

Health Canada advises that if your child possesses or has access to a zipper pull or cellphone charm of this description, it should be removed immediately from the child's reach and disposed of using normal household waste disposal. If you suspect that a child may have lead poisoning from mouthing one of these zipper pulls or cellphone charms, contact your family physician who can order a blood test to measure the child's blood lead level.

Anyone who swallows an item with significant lead content is at very high risk for severe, eventually fatal lead poisoning. If you have reason to believe that someone has swallowed one of these cellphone charms or part of a zipper pull, seek medical attention immediately.

Lead is an inexpensive metal and jewellery items made from it are generally inexpensive costume jewellery. Before buying children's costume jewellery, check with the retailer first to make sure it does not contain lead. If the retailer cannot provide assurances that the item is lead-free, do not buy it. If you have any doubts about such products in your child's possession, remove them immediately.