Lead in Children’s Jewelry

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Major Retailers Agree to Eliminate Lead Risks from Children’s Jewelry
January 27, 2006

Seventy-One Companies Join Precedent-Setting Agreement to Protect Children’s Health

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced today that major retailers of children’s jewelry, including Target, Kmart, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Claires, Mervyns, Sears, Toys R Us, Disney and dozens of other companies have agreed to eliminate lead exposure risks from jewelry marketed to children and adults. The legal settlement calls for the companies to take swift action to end sales of lead-containing jewelry in California by reformulating their products. The landmark agreement with seventy-one companies creates the first legally binding standards for lead in jewelry in the nation.

CEH initiated legal action against the jewelry companies in late 2003 and, with the California Attorney General, sued the companies in June 2004. In the past few years, there have been numerous cases of children suffering from serious lead poisoning due to jewelry exposures, prompting health warnings and national jewelry recalls. While seventy-one of the companies named in the lawsuits signed the settlement filed in Alameda County Superior Court today, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, and four other companies have not agreed to reformulate the jewelry they sell.

“We applaud the companies who joined this settlement for taking a hard look at this problem and agreeing to get the lead out of children’s jewelry,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We are hopeful that Wal-Mart and the other companies will soon join these industry leaders in protecting children from unnecessary lead risks.” In addition to Wal-Mart, Jordache, Cornerstone Apparel (Papaya stores), the Gerson Company, and Royal Items have not joined the settlement.

While today’s settlement is legally binding only in California, CEH expects that most if not all the companies will act to protect children nationally from lead jewelry risks. “California is a major market, and it will likely be impractical for companies to have one line of jewelry for the state and another for the rest of the country,” said Green. “Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the issue nationally and we call on each of the settling companies to make a public commitment to implement these lead reduction standards on a national basis.” CEH will post names of companies that make a national commitment, and those that have not, on its web site at www.cehca.org

The settlement negotiated over the past eighteen months sets strict standards for lead levels in all jewelry components, and requires that lead levels in children’s jewelry be reduced to trace amounts. Under the settlement terms, metal components in and coatings on children’s jewelry must contain less than 600 parts per million (ppm) of lead, while plastic (PVC) components can contain no more than 200 ppm. In lab testing commissioned by CEH, lead levels in PVC cords on costume jewelry ranged from 1400 to 20,000 ppm, and lead levels in a coating on one child’s bracelet tested at over 165,000 ppm. In tests conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and others, metal components often tested at over 500,000 ppm, and as high as 950,000, or 95% lead.

The settlement requires jewelry retailers to inform their suppliers of the reformulation requirements of the settlement within 90 days after it is entered by the court. Once they are informed, suppliers are required to eliminate or significantly reduce lead in jewelry as soon as possible. Each of the companies settling also agreed to pay $25,000, for an aggregate settlement of $1.875 million. The settlement will be used to establish a fund for testing jewelry for compliance in the future, to fund public education efforts on exposures to toxics in metals, and for penalties and reimbursement of legal costs.

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Message to Parents
Since 2003, CEH staff have tested and/or sent to independent testing laboratories hundreds of items of costume jewelry purchased in California from major national retailers (click here for a list of these retailers). Over a third of the pieces we have tested were found to contain dangerous amounts of lead. Other studies from jewelry purchased from these stores have shown similar results.

Since it is not possible for CEH to do comprehensive testing of all the jewelry carried by these major retailers, we recommend that all jewelry for children and young adults be scrutinized. In particular, jewelry with plastic cords, dull metallic components, or white fake pearls should be avoided, as these materials have often tested positive for lead. Parents should ask retailers about lead-levels in children’s jewelry, and let them know that you are concerned that they are continuing to sell lead-tainted children’s jewelry over a year after being notified of the problem.

Parents can also take other steps, including:

1) View pictures of the exact items that have tested positive for lead to see if their children own these items. If your child owns the item, take it away from your child and check with your local hazardous waste management agency about how to dispose of it properly. In Alameda County, the hazardous waste hotline is 1 (800) 606-6606.

2) Test your children’s jewelry with a home lead test kit. Lead Check brand test kits are available at hardware stores. You can also order packs of ten or more on line at www.leadcheck.com.

3)Learn more about lead and the dangers of lead poisoning with CEH’s brochure. You can also visit the following sites for more information.

i. The CA Department of Health Services’ Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/childlead/.

ii. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/lead.htm.

4) Spread the word about leaded jewelry in your community with our jewelry factsheet.

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Recent Press Releases
4.12.2005: Disney Children’s Jewelry Found Tainted with Lead
3.3.05: Despite Recall, Lead-Jewelry Remains on Shelves
2.10.05: CPSC Policy Leaves Children At-Risk From Lead-Tainted Jewelry
2.9.05: Analysis of CPSC Policy on Lead-Tainted Children’s Jewelry
12.17.04: CEH’s Statement on CPSC Recall
12.16.04: Despite Lawsuit, Major Retailers Continue Selling Lead-Tainted Jewelry to Children
7.8.04: Vending Machine Industry Warned for Lead-Tainted Jewelry
6.23.04: Major Retailers Sued for Selling Lead-Tainted Jewelry
Disney Children’s Jewelry Found Tainted with Lead
April 12, 2005
Oakland, CA – A Disney-brand children’s bracelet and children’s jewelry purchased at Disneyland have tested positive for alarmingly high levels of lead in independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). A glossy coating on the Disney bracelet contained 166,000 parts per million of lead, a level that is more than 275 times the legal limit for lead in paint. The necklace purchased at Disneyland that contains high lead levels is misleadingly labeled “lead-free.”

CEH took legal action against Disney yesterday, sending the company official notice of its intent to sue under California law. Today, the Center took action outside Disney headquarters in Burbank, California, where CEH Executive Director Michael Green and “Mikey” Mouse delivered a letter to Disney CEO Michael Eisner and CEO-elect Robert Igor calling on the company to order an immediate recall of the items and to take steps to protect children from lead exposures in all of its children’s jewelry. “Parents need to know that the Disney products they buy for their children are safe, “said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We expect Disney to take swift action to protect children from this toxic jewelry.”

The Disney items, one purchased at an Oakland chain drug store and two purchased at the Disneyland Resort, all tested for levels of lead that are a potential risk to children. Lead can affect brain development and is especially harmful to young children and fetuses. Last month, a six-year-old girl in San Jose suffered lead poisoning from a charm bracelet purchased at a craft store, and over the past few years at least seven other children have needed medical attention due to lead-poisoning from toy jewelry.

Last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission came out with a new policy on lead in “metal” children’s jewelry. However, the Disney items found by CEH found lead in components which are not covered by the new policy. CEH first exposed the problem of lead in plastic jewelry over a year ago, but neither CPSC nor the industry has comprehensively addressed the problem of lead in all parts of children’s jewelry.

Over a year ago, CEH notified major retailers about the health risks from lead-tainted jewelry, and last year the Center and the California Attorney General both sued dozens of retailers to force them to take steps to eliminate lead risks in jewelry. “With all the recent attention to this problem, Disney and other companies that sell children’s jewelry have no excuse when we uncover their toxic children’s jewelry sales,” said Green. “These companies need to stop making excuses and start taking strong action to keep risky jewelry off the shelves.”

The CEH lawsuits against retailers and today’s action against Disney were taken under California’s Proposition 65 law, which allow for citizen enforcement when companies fail to warn consumers that use of their products will expose people to illegal levels of toxic chemicals. CEH is represented by the Lexington Law Group, LLP, a San Francisco firm specializing in environmental and consumer public interest litigation.

Photos of the Disney jewelry and more information about the CEH action on lead jewelry can be found at http://www.cehca.org/jewelry.htm

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Despite Recall, Lead-Jewelry Remains on Shelves
March 3, 2005
Oakland, CA – The limited recall of children’s jewelry announced today and the recent series of jewelry recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission has neglected to deal with much of the lead-tainted jewelry still being sold to American children, according to investigations by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Laboratory tests and screenings of other recently purchased children’s jewelry, including items similar to the ones in today’s recall have tested positive for lead but are still being sold in stores nationwide.

“CPSC’s attitude is, ‘after kids get exposed to lead in jewelry, we might take action,’ ” said Michael Green, CEH Executive Director. According to the Associated Press, today’s recall was prompted when a six-year-old girl in San Jose suffered lead poisoning after mouthing a charm on a necklace. “It’s past time for strong action to put our children’s health first and to force industry to take responsibility for safety before they market children’s products,” said Green.

CEH has tested metal charms purchased at a California craft store and commissioned independent lab testing that found high levels of lead in other items purchased in the past few months from major retailers. The charms, very similar to the items in today’s recall, are produced by a New York company, raising concerns that domestic children’s jewelry needs to be more closely scrutinized. As in all of the recent CPSC recalls, the jewelry involved in today’s recall is imported, in this case from China.

Last July, legal action by CEH helped prompt the largest product recall in U.S. history, when over 150 million pieces of children’s jewelry were removed from vending machines nationwide. In February, CPSC released an “interim” policy on metal children’s jewelry that CEH criticized for lacking any mandatory testing or safety requirements for manufacturers or retailers.

“Producers and retailers of jewelry need a clear statement that hazardous levels of lead won’t be tolerated,” said Green. “But the CPSC policy continues to leave the door open to hazardous exposures to kids.”

Today’s CPSC recall involved about 2.8 million pieces of children’s jewelry, sold under the name “Charming Thoughts”™ nationwide in Michael’s Arts & Crafts Stores and Hancock Fabrics stores. The metal charms in various shapes are sold as decorations for greeting cards, scrapbooks, and gifts, and can be attached to bracelets and necklaces. Michaels is the nation’s largest specialty retailer of arts and crafts materials, with over 800 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Hancock Fabrics operates retail stores in 42 states, supplies wholesale customers, and operates an internet store.

More information about CEH action on lead jewelry, including photos of lead-tainted items, can be found at

http://www.cehca.org/jewelry.htm

Information on today’s CPSC recall can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml05/05127.html

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CPSC Policy Leaves Children At-Risk From Lead-Tainted Jewelry
February 10, 2005
Oakland, CA – In response to the policy on lead in children’s jewelry released last week by the Consumer Product Safety Commissioned (CPSC), the Center for Environmental Health today released a critique questioning the agency’s approach for falling far short of standards needed to protect children from harmful lead exposures.

Even more troubling, the CEH analysis finds that previous CPSC documents used stronger language and indicated that the agency was moving towards a strong policy that would set a clear standard for agency action on lead-tainted jewelry. Instead, the new policy gives the agency broad discretion in determining whether it will take action on lead-contaminated metal jewelry, and sets no requirements for testing by producers or retailers of children’s jewelry.

“CPSC has been working on this problem for six years, and still has no binding rules to protect American children,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “Since the agency acknowledges that children should not be subject to any unnecessary lead exposures, it is hard to understand why they are still taking baby steps on this issue.”

The CEH critique finds the following deficiencies in CPSC’s latest approach:

1. The policy is based on an inadequate threshold of lead exposure that can be harmful to children.
2. The policy calls for testing each jewelry component, but does not address cumulative exposures from multiple components.
3. The policy refers only to children’s “metal jewelry.” But other materials used in children’s jewelry, particularly PVC plastic, can also be sources of lead exposure to children.
4. The policy, calling for a screening test for total lead, followed by a lead accessibility test, offers no data or explanation to show how the screening level relates to the amount of accessible lead. This suggests that the policy may have wide gaps in protecting children from accessible lead.
5. The policy reinforces CPSC’s practice of conducting “case-be-case” evaluations, rather than providing a clear standard for unacceptable lead levels in children’s jewelry.
6. The policy is an “interim” guidance only, not an agency rule. It establishes no new regulations and no requirements for industry to test children’s jewelry.

Nearly a year ago, CEH notified major national retailers about the health risks from lead-tainted jewelry sold in their stores, and last June the Center filed legal action in California to resolve the lead-jewelry problem. But recent testing continues to show lead jewelry found in stores, and CPSC has taken no action to compel these retailers to investigate or recall their suspect jewelry.

The full CEH critique and more information about the CEH action on lead jewelry can be found below.

The CPSC policy can be found at
http://www.cpsc.gov/BUSINFO/pbjewelgd.pdf and
http://www.cpsc.gov/BUSINFO/pbjeweltest.pdf

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Analysis of CPSC Policy on Lead-Tainted Children’s Jewelry
February 9, 2005
In January 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commissioned (CPSC) announced a recall of an item of children’s jewelry sold in several major department stores across the country. This was just one in a series of such recalls announced by the agency, and prompted the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) to call on the Commission to adopt a comprehensive approach to the problem of lead in children’s jewelry.

Last week, the CPSC released an “Interim Enforcement Policy for Children’s Metal Jewelry Containing Lead (2/3/2005),” but unfortunately the policy falls far short of the kind of strong, comprehensive approach that CEH has been urging. Worse, the new CPSC policy takes several steps backwards from the approach for addressing the lead-jewelry problem that the Commission described in a letter it sent to producers, importers, distributors and retailers of children’s jewelry on July 1, 2004, in an internal draft CPSC “Enforcement Guidance” acquired by CEH through a freedom of information request, and in previous CPSC guidance on lead in consumer products.

CEH finds the following deficiencies in CPSC’s latest approach:

1. The policy is based on an inadequate threshold of lead exposure that can be harmful to children.
2. The policy calls for testing each jewelry component, but does not address cumulative exposures from multiple components.
3. The policy refers only to children’s “metal jewelry.” But other materials used in children’s jewelry, particularly PVC plastic, can also be sources of lead exposure to children.
4. The policy, calling for a screening test for total lead, followed by a lead accessibility test, offers no data or explanation to show how the screening level relates to the amount of accessible lead. This suggests that the policy may have wide gaps in protecting children from accessible lead.
5. The policy reinforces CPSC’s practice of conducting “case-be-case” evaluations, rather than providing a clear standard for unacceptable lead levels in children’s jewelry.
6. The policy is an “interim” guidance only, not an agency rule. It establishes no new regulations and no requirements for industry to test children’s jewelry.

These problems are addressed in more detail, below.

1. The policy is based on an inadequate threshold of lead exposure that can be harmful to children. Recent studies show that children exposed to lead at below the level proposed in the CPSC policy can suffer from hearing loss and learning disorders. EPA and other agencies have concluded that there is no safe level of lead. CPSC seems to agree with this conclusion when it states that “any unnecessary exposures of lead to children should be avoided,” but the agency then sets a testing threshold that contradicts this prescription. Given the current knowledge, CPSC should enforce a strong standard that requires industry to eliminate or reduce to the lowest possible level any lead in children’s products.

2. The policy calls for testing each jewelry component, but does not address cumulative exposures from multiple components. The new policy sets an allowable level for lead in each component of a finished piece of children’s jewelry (ie, an item may include a clasp, hook, pendants, charms, beads, etc), with no consideration for the total lead exposure to children. Under its new policy, every charm on a bracelet could contain up to 175 micrograms (ug) of accessible lead without triggering any agency action, regardless of how many charms are on the packaged bracelet. A charm bracelet made with ten charms, each leaching 175 ug of lead, would potentially expose a child to 1750 ug of lead, but would not be subject to any agency action. Yet a similar bracelet with just a single charm leaching 176 ug of lead would trigger agency action under the CPSC policy.

3. The new policy refers only to children’s “metal jewelry.” But other materials used in children’s jewelry, particularly PVC plastic, can also be sources of lead exposure to children. In independent testing commissioned by CEH, PVC cords on children’s jewelry have routinely tested over the “screening” level established for metal components in the CPSC policy. CPSC’s previous guidance on lead jewelry referred broadly to children’s jewelry, not just “metal” jewelry. With no basis or explanation, CPSC’s new policy completely ignores the threat to children from lead in non-metal jewelry.

4. The policy, calling for a screening test for total lead, followed by a lead accessibility test, offers no data or explanation to show how the screening level relates to the amount of accessible lead. This suggests that the policy may have wide gaps in protecting children from accessible lead. CPSC’s testing sets “above 600 parts per million” as its threshold of total lead content above which it will conduct further testing for accessible lead (ie, lead that would enter the bloodstream if an item were swallowed or chewed). At or below 600 ppm, CPSC says the jewelry is not of concern, posing the potential for a “race to the bottom” of jewelry makers aiming for lead levels at just below the 600 ppm mark. It appears that CPSC took the 600 ppm level from a standard established over twenty five years ago for lead in paint, and fails to take into account recent data about adverse health effects from much lower levels of lead exposure. Further, CPSC states that accessible lead should be no higher than 175 micrograms (ug). But no data or explanation is provided to demonstrate that items that test at or approaching 600 ppm always or usually test below 175 ug for accessibility. It is certainly conceivable that items testing below 600 ppm for total lead, if tested further, would show accessible lead levels of over 175 ug.

5. The policy reinforces CPSC’s practice of conducting “case-be-case” evaluations, rather than providing a clear standard for unacceptable lead levels in children’s jewelry. The agency’s recall of over 150 million pieces of toy jewelry last year was followed by a number of further recalls, and CEH testing continues to find lead-tainted jewelry in stores, demonstrating that the agency’s piecemeal approach is not keeping these dangerous products off the market. In its July 2004 letter to industry, CPSC said its preference was to assure that children’s jewelry “does not contain any lead” (emphasis added). If anything, the new policy appears to back-off from CPSC’s previous position.

6. The policy is an “interim” guidance only, not an agency rule. It establishes no new regulations and no requirements for industry to test children’s jewelry. CPSC states it “may recommend” rulemaking to establish limits for lead in jewelry. CEH looks forward to working with the agency on a strong, binding rule.

CONCLUSION

The problem of lead in jewelry is real: already there have been cases of children swallowing jewelry and suffering from lead poisoning that will mean lifelong deficits in learning and other abilities. Millions of American children may also be exposed chronically to lead in jewelry that they wear, handle or mouth for weeks, months or longer. CPSC has known about this problem for many years, and since at least 1998 has released guidance documents for addressing the problem. Since these voluntary guidelines have failed to keep tainted jewelry off the market, we see no reason to expect that the latest “interim policy” will have any greater effect. CPSC’s weakened language in its latest policy may actually make the problem worse, as it may provide an incentive for a jewelry producers “race to the bottom” in terms of lead content. CEH calls on CPSC to begin an expedited rulemaking process that sets a clear and safe standard to protect American children from lead-tainted jewelry.

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Statement on CPSC Jewelry Recall
December 17, 2004
The Center for Environmental Health is pleased to see the Consumer Product Safety Commission taking action to protect children from lead-tainted jewelry sold through catalogues and the internet. However, we are concerned that the Commission’s action continues to leave children at risk from jewelry purchased at major national retailers including Macys, J.C. Penny, Kmart, Nordstrom, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, and others.

As proven by our testing, by CBS News, and by the recent University of North Carolina study, much of the jewelry purchased recently at these stores contains dangerous levels of lead.

“Since the CPSC and other government agencies have refused to take action against these major companies,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green, “we have taken legal action to stop the sale of this poisonous jewelry.” CEH is currently suing these and other major retailers for their lead-contaminated jewelry, and warns shoppers this holiday season to avoid buying children’s jewelry from these stores.

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Despite Lawsuit, Major Retailers Continue Selling Lead-Tainted Jewelry to Children
December 16, 2004
Oakland, CA – According to laboratory testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), major retailers including Macys, J.C. Penny, Kmart, Nordstrom, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, and others are still selling children’s jewelry that is tainted with dangerous levels of lead, even though these stores have long known about the dangers of the lead-tainted products. Lead can affect brain development and is especially harmful to fetuses, infants and young children.

In a story on the national CBS evening news tonight, the network found similar results to the CEH testing when they purchased jewelry from Claire’s, JC Penney, Nordstrom, and Sears. Also, a new study from the University of North Carolina has found dangerous levels of lead in the majority of jewelry they tested, and warns that children can be harmed when exposed to the jewelry on their hands or skin.

“During this shopping season, parents should not have to worry that jewelry will make their kids sick,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. CEH initiated lawsuits against the retailers for selling lead-tainted jewelry in June of this year, after notifying the companies’ about the lead in jewelry nearly a year ago.

Following the CEH lawsuits, suppliers of vending machines ordered the largest product recall in U.S. history, removing 150 million pieces of potentially lead-tainted jewelry from gumball machines nationwide. But the retailers have still refused to take similar action to protect public health.

“These companies have known about this problem long enough,” said Green. “It is hard to understand why they have refused to take responsible action when our children are at risk.” The State of California has joined some of the CEH lawsuits.

A sampling of the items testing high for lead include brands such as: Orion (Burlington), Claire’s, Forever 21, Worthington (J. C. Penney), Juststyle (K-Mart), Lane Bryant, Nairi (Nordstrom), Etienne V (Nordstrom), Apostrophe (Sears), Mainframe (Sears), and Xhilaration (Target).

An attorney for the retailers claimed in a report airing today on National Public Radio that the stores cannot know if their vendors are providing safe or lead-tainted jewelry. “It is outrageous that these stores claim they are not responsible for the safety of the products they sell,” said Green. In fact, major chains often require suppliers to provide proof of safety in many types of products, and can also conduct their own spot testing to verify such documentation.

The North Carolina study will be published in the March issue of the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. A link to the text of the CBS News story is at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/12/16/eveningnews/main661577.shtml.

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Vending Machine Industry Warned for Lead-Tainted Jewelry
July 8, 2004

San Francisco – Following on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announcement today that lead-tainted jewelry will be recalled from vending machines nationwide, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is preparing further legal action to protect children who may have purchased contaminated jewelry from vending machines. Lead in children’s jewelry is a particular concern, as children may chew on cords or pendants, creating exposures that can effect brain development and harm fetuses, infants or young children.

In its legal challenge, CEH will demand that vending machine operators take responsibility for warning consumers about the risks to children from lead-contaminated jewelry. In June, CEH filed lawsuits under California’s Proposition 65 against major retailers, including Macys, J.C. Penny, Kmart, Nordstroms, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, and others for selling lead-contaminated jewelry.

“ Last month we sued retailers for selling lead-tainted jewelry, and now we’ve found that children may also be at risk when they drop a quarter in a vending machine to buy a pendant,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. “These products should have been taken off the market years ago. These companies must let parents know that their children may be wearing lead-tainted jewelry.”

Preliminary testing conducted by CEH on jewelry purchased from vending machines in California has found lead-contamination. WCCO-TV, an CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, also tested jewelry from vending machines last month and reported last week that vending machine operators were negotiating a recall with the CPSC. Since as early as 1998, similar jewelry items have been recalled due to lead poisoning incidents or potential lead hazards.

Proposition 65 is California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which provides that a company must either reformulate or withdraw its product or notify consumers if the product contains a hazardous level of chemical. In previous public interest cases, CEH has used the law to change entire industries, including forcing the playground equipment industry to stop using arsenic-treated wood, and eliminating health risks from lead in major brands of baby powder and children’s medicines.

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Major Retailers Sued for Selling Lead-Tainted Jewelry
June 23, 2004
San Francisco – The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) filed lawsuits today against major retailers, including Jordache, Macys, J.C. Penny, Kmart, Nordstroms, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, Lane Bryant, Claire’s and others, for selling jewelry that has been shown to contain dangerous amounts of lead. Most of the toxic jewelry is imported costume jewelry specifically marketed to children and women of child-bearing age. Lead can affect brain development and is especially harmful to fetuses, infants and young children.

“It’s frightening to think that a necklace could be a toxic noose around your daughter’s neck,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. “We expect these companies to stop selling lead-contaminated jewelry immediately and put an end to this real fashion emergency.”

The jewelry found with high levels of lead include necklaces made with plastic cords and metal jewelry made with tin. Poly vinyl chloride (PVC) plastic in the cords leaches lead, and low-grade tin in pendants and clasps is often lead-contaminated. Exposure to lead is a special concern when women or children chew on jewelry cords or metal parts.

Brand names include: Orion (Burlington), Claire’s, Forever 21, Worthington (J. C. Penney), Juststyle (K-Mart), Lane Bryant, Nairi (Nordstrom), Eitenne V (Nordstrom), Apostrophe (Sears), Mainframe (Sears), and Xhilaration (Target).

CEH filed legal notices warning the companies of its intent to sue last year, but to date the jewelry retailers have not addressed this industry wide problem. The group is demanding that the retailers pull from their shelves all products suspected of containing lead, and notify their suppliers that they are requiring the use of lead-free alternative materials in their future jewelry purchasing.

CEH is represented in today’s suits by the Lexington Law Group, LLP, a San Francisco firm specializing in environmental and consumer public interest litigation. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer also filed suit today against several retailers. CEH has been working with the Attorney General’s office and joined these suits, in addition to the group’s suits

California’s Proposition 65 toxics law and its Unfair Competition Law allow for citizen enforcement when consumer products contain illegal levels of toxic chemicals. In previous public interest cases, CEH has used these California laws to change entire industries, including pressuring the wood playground equipment industry to stop using arsenic-treated wood, and eliminating health risks from lead in major brands of baby powder and children’s medicines.

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List of Companies
Before the Center for Environmental Health took action, lead in costume jewelry wa…