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QUESTION: Where can I safely dispose of leaded jewellery and fair trade hanging mobiles? 17/01/11 South Australia, Australia

I recently tested some jewellery and fair trade hanging mobiles with bells on them which have come up positive to lead. I did my (veterinary) masters on lead and want to get these things out of my house however i don't wish to add to the lead in general waste. Is there a place to dispose of these products?

ANSWER: Jan 17 2011

Dear Jenny,

from anywhere in Australia, you should be able to phone your closest non-ferrous metal recycler (look up Scrap metal merchants in the Yellow  Pages) and ask them if you can post any leaded alloys or lead metal to them, or deliver them if they're close by.

Since you've gone to the trouble of testing the items, and since they are "Fair Trade" items, it would also be terrific if you could let the importer / retailer know about the lead content and your recycling mechanism, because it is extremely unlikely that the people making these leaded metal items are aware of the hazards of the occupational lead exposure that is inevitable in the country of manufacture; so they can not logically be classed as "Fair Trade" items. Depending on the response you get from the importer / retailer, you might also want to report the items to your state department of fair trading and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), not because it is illegal to sell leaded jewellery (it is only illegal to sell leaded toy jewellery in Australia, anything else is perfectly legal) or other leaded items that are not toys, but because it is clearly not beneficial to the producers of leaded products to be unaware of the hazards of working with lead.

The best case scenario that should eventuate from your excellent initiative to test for lead in these products, is that the producers and their children would also be tested for lead in their blood and if, as is inevitable, they show excessive blood lead levels, then investment is made into finding an alternative to lead as a raw material OR into purchasing better equipment / manufacturing areas (away from homes and places where children play) to enable them to work safely with lead.

You could have uncovered a major cause of lead poisoning for people in the fair trade handicrafts industry overseas.

I would be very keen to help to ensure that follow-up justifies your efforts to date.

I look forward to hearing back from you

Kind regards

Elizabeth O'Brien

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