Friday, March 13, 2009

The Poison Necklace

by Jessie Dye

The six weeks before Easter, called Lent in our Christian tradition, is a time of fasting and austerity. We remember the journey of Jesus in the desert, praying, fasting and facing temptations. We give up our worst vices for the duration; increasingly many people of faith are taking this liturgical season to reduce their carbon footprint and live mores sustainably. For myself, I’m giving up eating between meals for six weeks, in the tradition of the pre-Vatican II Catholics of my parent’s generation.

Because I’m eating less frequently (if not fewer calories) I’ve become intensely interested in what is good to eat and what is not. I know what I crave after 10:00 PM, and it isn’t celery. And one thing I wouldn’t recommend anyone chewing on, at meals or otherwise, is the pretty red beaded necklace I recently wore to Olympia.

Thursday was the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition Lobby Day in the State Capitol. Many of us environmental health enthusiasts carpooled to Olympia to ask our legislators to pass the ban on bisphenol-A (BPA). It’s called the Safe Baby Bottle Act of 2009. This chemical is an estrogen-mimicker; it was originally created as hormone replacement for woman. When that didn’t work, the chemical industry decided to use it to line baby bottles and canned food. Now it creates havoc in the bodies of children and animals. I’m not going to say what it does to baby boys; gentlemen you would cringe if you knew. It causes infertility in adult men and breast cancer in adult women, and isn’t necessary for baby bottles. If I may ask, please call the Washington State legislative hotline (1-800-562-6000) and ask your legislator to ban BPA!

The real eye-opener for me at the Toxic Free Lobby Day, however, was realizing that my lovely red necklace is poison. I dressed up in a grey suit for the occasion so I would look put-together and important. Legislators would think I knew what I was talking about. The red necklace was a bright touch, I thought. Unfortunately it is made out of lead beads and would be poison to any baby I might pick up who decided to chew my beads.

I found this out because the folks at the Toxics Coalition running the Lobby Day partnered with a company called Essco Safety Check which tests toys and other object for toxicity. Essco’s president, Seth Goldberg, wielded a tool that he pressed against the red beads to reveal a 53% lead content. Mr. Goldberg kindly told me that I was safe because the lead is crystallized in the bead—but were I to swallow it I could get pretty sick.

All I could think about were my own babies twenty years ago resting on my hip and chewing on my necklaces. I can recall breaking a string of beads and them rolling under the couch for toddlers or the dogs to chew. There is no safe amount of lead that a child can take in. No matter what I give up for Lent, the risk to children from lead, BPA, and other toxic chemicals goes on all year and between meals. No more red beads in my house.

1 comment:

Lisa at EWG said...

So glad to see all this grassroots support for non toxic laws! I work for the Environmental Working Group ( and we're working hard and partnering with the grassroots to reform TSCA with the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act ( in Congress.

Please sign The Declaration if this issue resonates with you, because industrial pollution doesn't have to start in the womb:

Together we can make these changes, I just know it.