California Warns Major Retailers about Products with Lead

November 17, 2009

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. sent a letter last week to six major retailers, warning them that a number of children’s products on their store shelves were found to contain “illegal levels of lead” and to pull the products from their stores immediately.

“Private testing uncovered a number of products designed for children that contain dangerous and illegal levels of lead,” Brown said in a statement. “These products must be removed from store shelves at once to protect our kids from toxic lead exposure.”

Children are particularly susceptible to the risks of lead exposure, which can damage the nervous system and other organs. Children are exposed by ingesting the lead when they put the products in their mouths, handle them and then touch their mouths, or transfer the lead from the products to food.

According to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, any children’s product that contains more than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead is considered a hazardous substance and therefore illegal to sell in the state. The following products were found to contain excessive levels of lead:

– Kids Poncho sold by Walmart, 677 ppm;
– MSY Faded Glory Rebecca Shoes sold by Walmart, 1331 ppm;
– Reversible Croco Belt sold by Target, 4270 ppm;
– Dora the Explorer Activity Tote sold by TJ Maxx, 2348 ppm;
– Paula Fuschia Open-Toed Shoes sold by Sears, 3957 ppm;
– Disney Fairies Silvermist’s Water Lily Necklace sold by Walgreens, 22000 ppm;
– Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit sold by Tuesday Morning, 6196 ppm.

Brown has also requested that the companies provide his office with results from any of their own tests conducted on the products and report how they plan to ensure that other items do not contain toxic quantities of lead.
Brown has reported the findings to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, which could order a recall of the products.

In 2008, Brown’s office reached a settlement with several major toy companies over excessive levels of lead in their products. The settlement allocated $548,000 in funding for consumer safety groups to monitor lead levels in consumer goods and to provide outreach about product recalls. The Center for Environmental Health discovered the current violations with a grant from the Public Health Trust, which administers the settlement fund.

“Based on our testing, it appears there are fewer problem toys on store shelves this year. But parents should know that some children’s products still contain high levels of lead,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Health. “After all the attention to lead-tainted toys, manufacturers and retailers still need to do more to keep lead out of our kids’ hands.”

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