Ardene necklaces recalled after lead found in popular ‘best friends’ pendants

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Months after Canadian fashion chain Ardene vowed stricter monitoring to keep toxic metals out of its jewelry, the company has recalled a set of necklaces Health Canada found to contain lead.

The necklaces feature colourful pendants, shaped like a watermelon and a cactus, as well as two hearts inscribed with the words: “Best” and “Friends.”

The lead was found in April during a spot check conducted by the federal agency.

The discovery prompted a national alert by Health Canada last Friday that ordered the recall of roughly 377 items of children’s jewelry that were sold in Canada in March and April of this year.

In a statement, Ardene says it had the necklaces re-tested by two laboratories and found that the product was “well below” the government limits on lead.

Despite this, Ardene says the company is complying with the recall.

It is the seventh recall for the popular fashion retailer in the past decade. Five of the recalls have involved lead in levels exceeding Health Canada’s guidelines.

Ardene necklaces recalled

The recall applies to two kinds of pendant necklaces sold in Ardene stores. (Health Canada )

Health Canada has long ordered retailers to keep significant levels of lead out of jewelry sold to kids.

Lead can harm the nervous system, and high levels of exposure can even cause death. Simply wearing the product is not believed to be dangerous but sucking, chewing or swallowing the jewelry could cause lead to be absorbed into the body.

Lead has a sweet taste, which can encourage kids to put it in their mouths.

According to Health Canada, there have been several historical cases of lead poisoning linked to children’s jewelry.

The current Ardene recall states that the company hasn’t received any reports of injuries related to the necklaces.

New problem emerges after Ardene vowed a fix

This latest recall comes after a 2016 Marketplace investigation revealed some Ardene jewelry manufactured in China contained cadmium, a toxic metal that poses a similar threat to lead if ingested.

Ardene did not recall any of the jewelry highlighted in the report but later told Marketplace the items had been removed from stores and announced changes to the way the company monitors its products for cadmium and lead. The changes included a more rigorous testing regime and strict standards for its suppliers.

Since making those changes over the past year, the company says test results have shown that all of their children’s jewelry is “well within our upgraded quality standards and all applicable product safety guidelines.”

Ardene necklaces recalled

Approximately 377 units of the jewelry were sold in Canada in March and April of this year. (CBC)

Health Canada also introduced changes after the Marketplace report, proposing stricter limits on cadmium and lead in children’s jewelry.

World capital of costume jewelry is China

According to Health Canada, lead is sometimes used to make costume jewelry because it is cheap and easily molded.

Nearly all costume jewelry in the world, including the recalled items from Ardene, is produced in the industrial Chinese city of Yiwu. The city is known to have a wide range of factories, from large scale operations with on-site labs and strict standards to renegade operations with little regard for safety.

Lead was once a staple in jewelry, but retailers began demanding its removal from the manufacturing process.

As retailers shifted away from lead, many manufacturers began to substitute with cadmium. Ardene products have previously been recalled for cadmium levels exceeding Health Canada guidelines. In 2015, Marketplace also gathered a number of samples from stores and asked researchers from the University of Toronto and École Polytechnique de Montréal to test them.

Blue triangle pendant - Ardene

This blue triangle pendant was found to be 99.6 per cent cadmium during tests conducted by Marketplace in an investigation that aired in January 2016. (CBC)

In one case, they found that a blue pendant on an Ardene necklace was nearly 100 per cent cadmium.

Supply chain managers in China recommend constantly testing products before they reach consumers to ensure factories don’t create a “clean” batch without lead and then produce the remainder with the low-cost metal.

As a result, they recommend repeated testing, though it increases the cost of each item.

Full Ardene statement

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Ardene necklaces recalled after lead found in popular ‘best friends’ pendants

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