Wearing poison

Published December 2, 2023

A RECENT study by Karachi University has cast a spotlight on the contamination of children’s jewellery with toxic materials. The research examined ornaments manufactured between July and August for Independence Day celebrations. A staggering 74pc of the analysed samples contained dangerous levels of lead and cadmium. Internationally, stringent safety standards exist to protect young consumers. For instance, the US and EU have set regulatory limits for heavy metals in children’s products. These standards are not just guidelines but enforceable rules. But Pakistan lacks such comprehensive regulations, leading to the unchecked circulation of potentially harmful items. We must enforce similar safety standards. Safe materials, such as non-toxic plastics, untreated metals like stainless steel or sterling silver, and natural fabrics, should be used. Conversely, materials prone to contamination, attractive for their low manufacturing cost — such as recycled electronic waste — must be strictly regulated or avoided.

The health implications cannot be ignored. Heavy metals can cause mental retardation, neurocognitive disorders, behavioural disorders, respiratory problems, cancer and cardiovascular diseases in children. Awareness drives are crucial to educate parents about the risks posed by these seemingly harmless items and safer alternatives. Moreover, the government’s role in establishing and enforcing safety standards is paramount. Regular inspections and quality control checks should be institutionalised to ensure compliance. Manufacturers and retailers found violating the rules should be penalised. The scientific community’s research will also play a crucial role in shaping these policies. Regular updates on new findings can help in continuously refining safety standards and rules. The study’s findings are a wake-up call. It is time for a concerted effort from all stakeholders — the government, industry, scientific community, and the public — to ensure that the joys of childhood are not marred by hidden dangers. Let us commit to making children’s jewellery safe, ushering in an era of conscious consumerism and child welfare.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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