U.S. Watchdog Urges Ban on Kids’ Toys with Lead

December 7, 2006

Children’s jewelry containing lead should be banned in the U.S., said the staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

CPSC staff urged the commission this week to prohibit the manufacture, sale and importation of all toy jewelry containing more than .06 percent lead by weight — about one ounce (28 grams) for every 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

“The goal is to make the marketplace safer when it comes to children’s jewelry by having a simpler policy for companies in their manufacturing and CPSC in assessing safe from dangerous,” CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

The commission is an independent federal regulator responsible for making sure products are safe for consumers. The CPSC works with companies to issue recalls when it finds consumer goods that can be harmful.

In 2004, the CPSC recalled 150 million pieces of children’s jewelry with unsafe lead levels — the biggest recall in the agency’s history. Earlier this year, a Minnesota boy died of lead poisoning after swallowing a metal pendant from a charm bracelet that came with a pair of Reebok shoes.

“Lead in old paint in older homes is still the No. 1 lead danger for children, but this (toy jewelry) product line has really come to the forefront since 2004,” Wolfson said.

The ban was urged in response to a petition filed earlier this year by the Sierra Club, a California-based environmental advocacy group.

“Most parents would agree that stores shouldn’t be able to sell toys that might be a danger to children,” said Sierra Club press secretary Eric Antebi.

“CPSC is doing a huge favor to parents in calling for a ban,” he said. “No matter how vigilant parents are, they are simply never going to be able to do on their own what the federal government can.”

Under current regulations, children’s products found to have more than .06 percent lead are usually subject to a recall, in which the company must reimburse consumers for the value of the product, provide a replacement or offer a repair.

By banning toy jewelry with that much lead, CPSC’s Wolfson said, the agency can fine companies that knowingly manufacture, sell or import it.

In September, the Sierra Club filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, asking a federal judge in northern California to order the agency to take steps to reduce sales of children’s jewelry with unsafe lead levels.

The ban “simply will not be successful if the EPA isn’t working right there” with CPSC, Antebi said.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said the petition was rejected because the agency does not have the authority to ban toy jewelry. “EPA and CPSC are working hand in hand on this issue because it may involve two different authorities,” she said. “EPA can ban lead, and CPSC can ban the product.”

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