HealthyStuff.org released a report in 2013 that found heavy metals and flame retardants in Mardi Gras bead necklaces. One necklace that was tested had nearly 30,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead--that’s 300 times the limit set by the Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) as safe for children’s products. Today, HealthyStuff.org released a new study to follow up on last year’s bead testing. The beaded products were tested for chemicals based on their toxicity or their tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (PVC and chlorinated flame retardants), cadmium, arsenic, tin (organotins), phthalates and mercury.
For this study, HealthyStuff.org purchased beads from three Mardi Gras bead wholesale retailers from New Orleans. The forty-eight bead necklaces analyzed in this study included various sizes,lengths, colors and shapes – the typical bead necklaces you find at Mardi Gras festivity.
The study found that over 90% of the all beads contained at least one of the following chemicals; lead, hazardous flame retardants, arsenic or cadmium.
Over 70% of the products tested (34 of 48) had levels of lead above 100 ppm. For comparison purposes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limits lead in children's product to less than 100 ppm.
Nearly 80% of the products tested (38 of 48) had levels of bromine above 400 ppm, suggesting the presence of brominated flame retardants.
Seventeen beads were manufactured in 2012 of which fourteen, contained at least three or more chemicals of concern at detectable levels (10 ppm).
33% of the products sampled contained brominated flame retardant levels in the range of 1-2% (by weight or 10,000-20,000 ppm).
Electron microscope images of the beads show fragments of material that appear to be used as filler in the production of the beads. Many of these fragments have halogenated flame retardants in them, including:
decaBDE (decabromodiphenyl ether)
tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)
75% (36 of 48) of the products had levels of chlorine above 3,500 ppm, suggesting the use of either PVC or chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs).
The interior of Mardi Gras beads, which often get shattered during celebrations, contained concentrations of hazardous chemicals that were as high as the exterior coating of the beads.
This study reveals that Mardi Gras beads, both new and old, contain a range of toxic chemicals that pose a hazard to the environment and public health. The HealthyStuff.org research team asks that Mardi Gras be celebrated this year with health in mind. Here are some tips that can make this year’s festivities safer for you:
Wash your hands after using the beads
Reuse beads from last year to decrease waste
Ask your local representative to support more regulation on toxic chemicals
Make an effort to purchase safer products when sold
Get involved with action groups that advocate for a greener Mardi Gras, like VerdiGras
The summary results of the XRF screening of these bead necklaces are presented in the tables below. The results are the max levels detected for select chemicals of concern by bead necklace. Results are given in ppm.