Lead Hazard to Children Is Not Just From Tainted Water

Lead-tainted jewelry-making kits imported from China prompt an investigation by U.S. consumer safety regulators and spark memories of massive 2007-2008 toy recalls.

When you hear about lead contamination or lead poisoning these days, there’s a good chance you immediately think of Flint, Michigan, where a spike in lead levels in the city’s drinking water reached crisis levels last year, making national headlines, spurring dozens of lawsuits and leading President Barack Obama to declare a federal state of emergency in Flint.

But as an tests recently conducted by the New York Attorney General’s Office remind us, lead may be lurking elsewhere — even in your children’s toys.

Among the items recently found to have dangerously high lead levels by the investigation were parts of Cra-Z-Art children’s jewelry-making kits supplied by LaRose Industries. The toy jewelry kits are manufactured in China and sold by retailers including Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and Amazon.

“Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers all have a responsibility to ensure that products intended for use by children are safe,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office’s discovery of children’s products containing high levels of lead for sale on store shelves in New York points to an alarming breach in the safety net that is supposed to protect our kids from dangerous chemicals.”

Although Schneiderman cannot order a product recall, he is encouraging a recall of the affected products — and investigating how these toys, some of which contain lead levels up to 10 times greater than federal child safety limits, made it to store shelves. They include:

  • Shimmer N’ Sparkle Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Ultimate Gem Machine
  • Shimmer N’ Sparkle Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Gem Charm and Slider Bracelets
  • My Look Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations Ultimate Gem Machine

“No parents should have to worry that a toy they buy may poison their child,” Schneiderman said.

In 2007 and 2008, there was a spate of recalls of toys imported from China because they violated the U.S. federal lead-paint standard. In one of the largest cases, U.S. toy giant Mattel recalled several million lead-tainted Barbie dolls and other toys that it had manufactured in China. In 2009, Mattel paid $2.3 million in civil penalties for its role in the violations.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the top consumer product safety regulator in the United States, has launched an investigation into the jewelry-making kits.

“CPSC’s investigation will be thorough and swift, and we will certainly take all warranted steps to protect the public,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a statement.

We co-exist with low levels of lead on a daily basis, notes Forbes contributor Dr. Robert Glatter.

“Lead is naturally found at low levels in soil, water, food, the air we breathe and manufactured goods, as well as the dust found in our homes,” Glatter explains.

But lead can be dangerous when it gets into toys or other objects that children handle and put in their mouths.

“Children under the age of 6 are at highest risk [of lead poisoning], with even higher risk under the age of 2,” Glatter writes. “Not only do children put their hands and objects in their mouths more frequently, their gastrointestinal tracts actually absorb lead at a higher rate compared with adults.”

Who do you think should be held accountable when imported products are found in violation of safety regulations? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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