Many of the shoes marketed for children light up when they take a step. These shoes range from sandals to tennis shoes, and many adults and children think they are very cool. These light up shoes are very popular and inexpensive in our mainstream culture, but the batteries in these shoes pose a risk to our environment and children’s health.
Before 1980, most household batteries contained mercury. By using alternative materials, such as silver oxide, most batteries are now mercury-free; however watch style, small, “button” shaped batteries still contain mercury. These types of batteries are found in light up children’s shoes. Although some websites claim the batteries in children’s light up shoes have been mercury free since 1997, a 2006 report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states, “Mercury is found in items such as thermometers, switches, thermostats, light-shoes, jewelry, some batteries, and fluorescent lights.” IndustryWatch.org implies children’s shoes still contain mercury by writing, “The future of light-up shoes is on the rocks” in an article posted June 26, 2007 about mercury reduction legislation. Many states, like an Ohio ban that begins in April 2008, have outlawed mercury in consumer products such as footwear, toys, games, greeting cards, holiday ornaments, candles, etc. “Compliance deadlines have been extended in many states for consumer products whose only mercury is in the button-cell battery required to operate them, because the battery industry has imposed its own deadline of 2011 for eliminating the mercury those contain,” explains IndustryWatch.org.
Remember the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? The term “mad as a hatter” refers to the mercury poisoning hat makers experienced up until a ban in 1940s. Hat makers experienced nervous disorders, mental illness, odd behavior, quarter size holes in their brains, and death as a result of their mercury exposure. High levels of mercury still exist in rivers and soil around hat making facilities on the east coast. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that enters the food chain through contaminated water. In children, the effects of mercury exposure can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, attention problems, kidney damage, and problems with their nervous and digestive systems. Mercury does occur naturally in rocks and minerals, such as cinnabar; however, burning coal, natural gas, and oil are major contributers to acid rain and mercury in our food chain, especially fish. Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter first appeared in 1865, yet we have still not learned from this character of children’s literature.
To read more, please visit Green Options: Green Family Values: Some Children’s Light Up Shoes Contain Mercury.
Thanks for pointing this out. I also think people should realize that all there CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs) have mercury in them as well.
Jennifer Lance says
I agree Dan. I just tried taking a CFL to my local recycling center and was told I needed to take it to the hazardous waste center in a neighboring town.
Mercury is very scary stuff. I found a big bottle in our home left behind by the previous occupants. Absolutely terrifying. But not as much as the thought that it could be in my son’s shoes.
Ami Scott says
I was surpised recently to discover that CFL’s contained mercury. But I never thought about light up shoes containing it. At this time the children don’t have any light up shoes other than a pair of Cinderella dress up shoes in the play chest but our son has had his eye on a pair of light up Spiderman shoes at our local Payless he’s been begging for and had almost saved enough money for. But learning of this makes me very leery of allowing them in the house at all. My children are very rough and tumble with their shoes, and now that they’re older a pair of s hoes rarely lasts in any kind of condition to be passed down to a sibling. How easy would it be for them to accidentally dig one of these batteries out of a shoe? I’ll just have to sit down and explain to him the problem and hope he’ll understand. Bleh. A five year old doesn’t understand this kind of stuff. Sigh…. maybe I can placate him with some new crayons or a paint set. He’s been clamoring for those as well but Lyra is so expensive and four little ones goes through the supplies quickly.
Leather itself can contain heavy metals due to the tanning processes used.
I stock hand made baby leather shoes that are heavy metal free-no worries when baby decides to suck on their toes.
In fact, CFL’s contain LESS MERCURY than your children’s blinking shoes! Very scary, indeed!
Mercury is harmful to the kidney. Children attract towards the light shoes.