Three Recalls Are Announced by CPSC for Jewelry Posing Lead Poisoning Hazard to Children – One Death Reported

By Steven DiJoseph

Excessive Lead in Costume Jewelry Continues to Pose Serious Health Risks to Children – Consumers Should Be Aware of Dangers Associated with Lead Poisoning

Background
As we have previously reported, a longstanding problem with inexpensive costume jewelry is that it often contains excessively high levels of the extremely toxic heavy metal, lead.

Last year in fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initiated its single largest, individual product recall that involved metal vending machine jewelry.

In December, the CPSC and Stravina Operating Co., LLC, of Chatsworth, California, announced a voluntarily recall of about 6 million children’s metal necklaces and zipper pulls. That metal jewelry contained high levels of accessible lead in the metal and/or the paint, posing a serious risk of lead poisoning to young children.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that in elevated levels can lead to both neurological and developmental problems in children. Lead exposure usually occurs by ingestion, such as eating or putting objects into the mouth. Young children, therefore, are at a particularly high risk.

Teenagers have also been found to have severe adverse effects to lead exposure, including hearing loss, impaired growth, brain damage, and kidney damage.

In two other major recalls (September 2005) the CPSC, in cooperation with Dollar General Corp. of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, recalled some 455,000 Necklace and Earring Sets because the jewelry contained high levels of lead.

That same month the CPSC and Monogram International Inc., of Pinellas Park, Florida, recalled about 145,000 Disney Princess Bracelet Keyrings because of a high lead content.

Thus, the problem has been a very real and ongoing one and the people most at risk have been children and adolescents who are either attracted to the jewelry because it is a popular play item for children or because it is “trendy” and easily affordable by teenagers.

California’s Aggressive Approach to the Problem

In an effort to stem the tide of these lead-laden products, the state of CaliforniaU.S. retailers and distributors that requires a significant reduction in the levels of lead in this type of costume jewelry. announced, in January, a settlement with 71 key

According to California’s Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, the “landmark settlement is a success story showing how Proposition 65, California’s premier right-to-know law, protects our families and communities from the health risks resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment. The power of the law is stimulating the costume jewelry industry to employ methods to reduce and eliminate lead from their products in order to avoid having to warn consumers about the health risks.”

According to the settlement, defendants must meet new standards for lead-free and low-lead jewelry no later than 2008 or have their sales halted in the state.

Companies that entered the settlement include Burlington Coat Factory, CBI Distributing, Claire’s Boutiques, Claire’s Stores, Express, Federated Department Stores, J.C. Penney, KMart, Macy’s West, Mervyn’s, Nordstrom, Ross, Sears, Target, and Toys R Us. Remaining as litigants are Wal-Mart, Jordache, Cornerstone Apparel (Papaya stores), the Gerson Company, and Royal Items.

The lawsuit, which was filed in June 2004, charged that the named defendant-retailers had violated Proposition 65 by not properly warning consumers of the health risks posed by exposure to the lead contained in specified pieces of jewelry. The law requires retailers to warn consumers if they are at risk of exposure to known carcinogens or substances that may cause reproductive harm.

In December 2004, the retailers agreed to resolve the matter through mediation. As a result 38 jewelry distributors joined that mediation voluntarily and are a part of the settlement as well.

According to the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay a total of $1.7 million, including $100,000 in civil penalties; $250,000 for a jewelry testing fund; $325,000 for consumer education about the health risks from exposure to lead and other heavy metals; and the remainder in attorneys’ fees.

Other companies can join in the settlement to avoid potential liability. The Center for Environmental Health and As You Sow joined Lockyer in the settlement.

Lead is listed under Proposition 65 as a substance that can cause birth defects and reproductive harm since 1987 and has been on the list of known carcinogens since 1992.

The analytical testing done by the state found levels of lead in both the metallic and non-metallic components of the jewelry in question that far exceeded the threshold level after which a Proposition 65 warning to consumers is required.

The Current Recalls Demonstrate the Problem Remains a Serious One

In the most serious, although not the largest, of the new recalls, Reebok International Ltd. of Canton Ohio, has announced it is recalling approximately 300,000 Reebok Heart-Shaped Charm Bracelets manufactured in China.

The recalled jewelry contains high levels of lead, posing a risk of lead poisoning and adverse health effects to young children.

Reebok has received a report of a death caused by lead poisoning of a 4-year-old child from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The child reportedly swallowed a piece from one of these bracelets.

The recall involves an 8-inch long metal bracelet with a heart-shaped charm. The name “Reebok” is engraved on the one side of the charm. The charm bracelet was provided as a free gift with the purchase of various styles of children’s footwear.

The recalled bracelets were sold at major shoe stores nationwide from May 2004 through March 2006. The manufacturer’s retail price of the shoes ranged between $33 and $50.

Consumers are advised by the CPSC to “immediately take the charm bracelets away from children and dispose of the entire bracelet.”

For additional information, contact Reebok at (800) 994-6260 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit Reebok’s Web site at www.reebok.com.

The second recall announced by the CPSC is in connection with some 580,000 Dollar Tree Mood Necklace and Ring, Glow-in-the Dark Necklace and Ring, and UV Necklace and Ring sets made in China and imported by Dollar Tree Distribution Inc., of Chesapeake, Virginia.

Although no incidents or injuries have been reported to date, the CPSC announced that the “recalled jewelry contains high levels of lead, posing a serious risk of lead poisoning and adverse health effects to young children.”

The rings are silver in color, adjustable, and have one of a variety of designs with a toy “gem” in the center. The necklaces have a black string with silver colored clasps and a silver charm with a “gem” in the center.

The following are printed on the charms’ packaging: “Mood Necklace,” Mood Ring,” “Glow in the Dark Necklace,” “Glow in the Dark Ring,” “UV Necklace” or “UV Ring.” The “UV” jewelry packaging reads, “The Sun’s Energy Will Change The Color.” On the reverse of the packaging are “SKU#815485” and the name “Mannix.”

The recalled items were sold at Dollar Tree, Dollar Bill$, Dollar Express, Greenbacks, Only $1 and Super Dollar Tree stores nationwide from September 2003 through February 2006 for $1.

Consumers should immediately take this jewelry away from children and return it to the store where purchased for a refund.

For additional information, contact Dollar Tree Stores Inc. at (800) 876-8077 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.dollartree.com.

The final (current) recall involves some 25,000 Beaded Photo Charm Bracelets manufactured in China and imported by Oriental Trading Company Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska.

According to the CPSC, the “recalled metal charm bracelets contain high levels of accessible lead, posing a serious risk of lead poisoning to young children. Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation.”

No incidents or injuries have been reported.

The charm bracelets consist of silver-colored metal beads. A silver-colored metal heart frame is attached to the bracelet.

The recalled items were sold on Oriental Trading Company’s Web site from July 2004 through September 2005 for about $0.50 each.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled charm bracelets away from children and contact Oriental Trading Company to receive a refund or credit for the product. Oriental Trading Company is contacting consumers who purchased the bracelets.

For more information, contact Oriental Trading Company at (800) 723-6155 anytime, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.orientaltrading.com.

It is obvious that despite legal action, warnings, and recalls, millions of pieces of lead-laden costume jewelry continue to stream into the U.S. primarily from manufacturers in China. Since these inexpensive products are often purchased for or by children, the danger they pose in terms of lead exposure cannot be overemphasized.

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