Lead Poisoning Prevention
Child Dies of Lead Poisoning from Metal Charm

  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) offers its condolences to the family of a four-year-old Minneapolis child who died February 22 of lead poisoning after swallowing a metal charm containing very high levels of lead. This is the first documented death of a child from lead poisoning in Minnesota. This is a very rare occurrence, not only in Minnesota but nationwide.  
  • While we cannot release specific information about the child, we can report that the child was first brought to the hospital with vomiting on February 16, returned and was hospitalized on February 18, and was tested for lead only after a metal object was seen on abdominal x-ray. The child’s blood lead level was 180 ug/dL. The MDH state guidelines specify a blood lead of 60 ug/dL or greater to be a medical emergency. A level of 10 ug/dL or above is considered elevated.
  • Laboratory testing shows that the heart-shaped charm contained 99 percent lead. A similar Reebok heart-shaped charm attached to a bracelet sold with children’s shoes obtained and tested by the Minneapolis Department of Regulatory Services contained 67 percent lead. The Consumer Products Safety Commission allows no more than 0.06 percent lead in jewelry sold in the United States.
  • In conjunction with MDH and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, CDC has prepared a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Dispatch about this lead poisoning death. The MMWR has further details about the case, including more information for medical providers.
  • Reebok charms have been recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Further information is available at their website: www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml06/06119.html. As of 3/24/06 Shoes Containing the Charm Were Still Available for Sale in Chicago and may still be for sale in other areas.
  • Health care providers should consider lead poisoning as a possible diagnosis if young children present with symptoms of increased intracranial pressure, unexplained gastric symptoms, and a history of eating or mouthing non-food objects.
  • Consumers who have purchased shoes with heart-shaped metallic charm bracelets should keep the charm bracelet away from children, especially infants and toddlers who often place items in their mouths. The charm bracelet should be disposed of by taking it to a household hazardous waste collection site. In the meantime, be sure to keep any suspected lead jewelry away from children. A list of household hazardous waste collection sites is available from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
  • Childhood lead poisoning is still a serious public health problem, but by far the greatest source of exposure in Minnesota is deteriorating lead paint or lead dust in housing built before 1978. In 2004, approximately 1,500 children had blood lead levels of 10 ug/dL or greater and 122 with 20 ug/dL or greater. This is a substantial decrease over the last 10 years.
  • It is unlikely that simply wearing jewelry containing lead will cause elevated blood lead levels. However, you should wash your hands after handling suspected lead-containing jewelry to avoid any oral exposure. There is no way to determine that an item of jewelry contains lead without destroying it.
  • Lead poisoning resulting from consumer products is rarely reported. However, the CPSC has issued previous product recalls for several types of children’s toys or jewelry that have been manufactured with high lead content. The CPSC has also established a policy on lead in children’s metal jewelry. (See www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml05/05097.html.)
Updated Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 12:53PM