Metal Contamination in Low-Cost Jewelry and Toys in Cambodia




Murphy, Thomas
Lim, Sereyrath
Kim, Sothea
Irvine, Kim
Chaiwat, Withwetin
Wilson, Kenneth

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Pure Earth


Background: The existence of lead-contaminated consumer products is a global issue. Toys and low-cost jewelry may contain toxic metals and Cambodia is known to have consumer products with toxic metals. Objectives: It is important to inform Cambodians about sources of toxic metals so that they can reduce their exposure risk, particularly for children. Methods: Student volunteers purchased, or brought from home, low-cost jewelry and toys to either the University of Health Science or a Don Bosco Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they were analyzed using X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The initial analysis was performed in 2011. A subset of the 2011 samples was re-analyzed in 2015 using new preparation techniques and a new x-ray fluorescence (XRF) unit. Discussion: The analysis of low-cost jewelry in Phnom Penh in 2015 indicated that lead in jewelry clasps is a more serious health concern than was first perceived in 2011. Mercury, nickel, cadmium and copper were also found in toys, and occasionally these toys had been produced by well-known companies. Sources of jewelry production of samples in the present study are unknown. Lead in clasps in low-cost jewelry appeared to be the greatest risk to children in our sampling. Conclusion: One-third of toys and low-cost jewelry exceeded the United States and European Union guidelines for heavy metals. XRF analysis allows for rapid screening of lead and other toxic metals and could be used to reduce the sales of low-cost jewelry and toys containing toxic metals.



toxic metals, cosmetic jewelry, lead, toys, Cambodia, Biology


Murphy, T., Lim, S., Kim, S., Irvine, K., Chaiwat, W., & Wilson, K. (2016). Metal contamination in low-cost jewelry and toys in Cambodia. Journal of Health and Pollution, 6(11), pp. 47-57.


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