Nation’s Largest Halloween Costume Makers Sells Lead, Cadmium-Tainted Jewelry

Oakland, CA-Rubie’s Costume Company and its Forum Novelties division (“the Rubie’s/Forum entities”), a New York costume maker and distributor that supplies Target, Wal-Mart, Sears and other major retailers, has for at least three years sold jewelry tainted with lead or cadmium in violation of California consumer protection law. Since 2008, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found nineteen pieces of tainted jewelry sold by the Rubie’s/Forum entities, including more than a dozen pieces just this year. The nineteen items violate California law, and one item, a child’s hair bow purchased this July, contains high levels of lead in violation of federal law banning lead in products designed for children 12 and under.

The Rubie’s/Forum entities have licensing deals to make costumes depicting popular characters including a id=”mce_marker”,000 Darth Vader costume, Harry Potter costumes, and costumes of characters created by Mattel, Warner Brothers and other major companies. “For years this company has been tricking consumers by ‘treating’ them to dangerous jewelry while evading their responsibility to clean up these serious health hazards” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH.

CEH first notified the company of its tainted jewelry in November 2008. The Rubie’s/Forum entities boast of more than $50 million in annual sales, yet the company failed to clean up the problem, and CEH filed suit to protect consumers from the tainted items in January 2009.

Since that time the company has continued to flout the law and refuse to take the protective steps hundreds of other companies have agreed to institute. To date, more than two hundred companies have signed legal agreements with CEH requiring them to reformulate their jewelry to eliminate lead and cadmium exposures to unsuspecting consumers.

Among the company’s tainted products are a “Betty Boop Jewelry Set” and “Disco Fever Rainbow Hoop Earrings,” both containing lead paint; a “Big Daddy Bracelet” and “Big Daddy Ring” both with high cadmium levels; and an “Asp Snake Necklace” with a single component that is nearly pure lead. The tainted products were sold at major national Halloween brick and mortar retailers and by online retailers.

Under California consumer protection law, consumers must be warned when businesses expose them to harmful chemicals, like lead and cadmium, which can cause cancer and/or reproductive harm. State law also strictly limits the level of lead allowed in jewelry, with no more than 1.5% lead allowed in unplated metal jewelry components and no more than 6% in plated metal used in jewelry.  Legal levels for children’s jewelry are substantially lower. 

According to the Licensing Book’s Licensing Blog, in 2009 Rubie’s Forum Novelties division was awarded the “2009 Vendor of the Year” given by Spirit Halloween, a retailer where CEH found one highly lead-tainted Rubie’s item. (1) The Financial Times reported in 2005 that the company was found using child labor at its costume factory in Mexico.(2) In 2006, a company spokesman said they were developing play outfits for children to wear every day.(3)

  1. http://licensingbook.com/tag/rubies-costume-company
  2. http://icca-corporateaccountability.org/PDFs/MattelMexicoDisputeFT.pdf
  3. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4189/is_20061027/ai_n16813460/

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