In late 2018 and early 2019, we tested 56 beaded necklaces collected from Gasparilla parades in Florida and from Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana. For necklaces that contained multiple bead colors or pendants, we tested these different components separately.

Of 66 components tested in the 56 necklaces, We found most of them contained high levels of bromine (70% of tested samples) and antimony (64% of tested samples), strongly suggesting the presence of brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide. Most of these beads also contained levels of chlorine consistent with the presence of chlorinated flame retardants.

One-third (33%) of the samples contained over 100 parts per million (ppm) lead, ranging as high as 472 ppm. 100 ppm is the limit allowed in children's products in the United States.

Additional tests done only on the Gasparilla beads found that 12 out of 14 contained a triaryl phosphate chemical, likely a derivative of triphenyl phosphate. These phosphates are used as flame retardants or as plasticizers. 

Download Mardi Gras Bead Report Data, Ecology Center 2020

These results aren't surprising. The Healthy Stuff Lab has tested Mardi Gras beads in the past. For one of our past studies, we dug deep and verified with third-party research labs that beads with high bromine measured by XRF contained multiple brominated flame retardants. Even PBDEs, which are no longer used in the U.S. due to their toxicity and persistence in our environment, were detected. Details of those analyses are in the paper we published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Protection in 2016.

Why are toxic chemicals present in so many Mardi Gras-type beads and at such significant levels? The short answer: Electronic waste. E-waste includes plastic housings of devices like computers, phones, and more. Those plastics are infused with flame retardant chemicals. Our prior research found strong evidence that these beads are made from recycled e-waste plastic.

Published on February 24, 2020

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