CPSC Finds Children's Jewelry Still Contaminated with LeadAug 7, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Children in the US are still being exposed to lead-tainted trinkets and jewelry. Since last fall, inspectors from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) have been collecting children’s jewelry from various retail outlets, and what they have found is disturbing. Of the jewelry collected by the CPSC, 20-percent tested positive for lead paint. What’s more, most of the lead-laced jewelry was imported from China, a country with a history of sending toys with lead paint to the US.
Other surveys by state health officials in Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio also found lead in 40-percent of the jewelry purchased in those states. The findings suggest that pieces of lead contaminated jewelry remain on the market by the thousands.
This tainted jewelry was found in stores even though the CPSC has spent years trying to keep such items out of the hands of children. In 2004, the commission recalled more than 150 million pieces of children’s jewelry for lead contamination. Following the recall, the CPSC issued new guidelines for testing jewelry for lead, as well as guidelines for how much lead a piece of jewelry may contain. The commission directed manufacturers and importers to keep lead levels below 600 parts per million, and to test products before putting them on the market. Unfortunately, the CPSC plan is not working. Part of the problem could be that the CPSC has no real authority to enforce its program. While it can issue recalls, the commission has said that it would like the ability to enforce fines or even criminal penalties against repeat offenders.
The findings of the CPSC survey come on the heels of last week’s recall of one million Fisher-Price toys because they contained lead-based paint. Like some of the jewelry, those toys were manufactured in China. The recall involved more than 80 varieties of Fisher-Price toys, many of which were based on popular children’s characters like Elmo and Dora the Explorer. Earlier this year, more than 1 million Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine Toys were also recalled by the CPSC for lead paint.
Children’s jewelry can be especially dangerous if it is painted with lead-based paint because children often put such objects in their mouths. Lead exposure can cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities and other health problems in young children. Jewelry is especially hazardous, because it is not unusual for a child to swallow an entire ring or charm. In fact, a four-year-old Minneapolis boy swallowed such a charm last year. His lead levels became so high that he suffered seizures and respiratory arrest and later died.
It is up to Congress to decide if the CPSC will get the enforcement powers that it needs to protect children from lead hazards. Until then, the commission is warning caregivers to be wary of children’s jewelry, as there is no way for the average person to tell if lead paint has been used on a product.