This Holiday Season, Parents Still Need to Look Out for Lead

OAKLAND – In the wake of a groundbreaking California legal settlement to end the threat of lead-tainted jewelry that was spearheaded by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced plans to develop federal rules on lead in jewelry. On Monday, the CPSC voted to start a regulatory rulemaking that would limit lead in children's jewelry. However, according to the agency, its process will focus primarily on metal parts of jewelry, and could take years before safety rules are enacted.


This government action follows the strict California legal standards sponsored by CEH that calls for the elimination of lead in all components of kid's jewelry. "Because of our work in California, a new standard has been set to protect kids from this dangerous lead exposure," said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. "Federal bans of these products could take years, so we suggest parents stay on the look out for lead-tainted jewelry."  CEH advocates a regulatory approach that looks at all lead-containing components of children's jewelry, including imitation pearls and vinyl cords, which have been found in CEH's research to have high lead levels, and urges CPSC to adopt standards similar to California's.


Lead jewelry recalls announced by CPSC have become increasingly commonplace. Just this month, the Commission announced a recall of 51,600 children's lead-containing necklaces sold across the country, and in March a four-year-old boy died after swallowing a lead-tainted charm. But the agency has lagged in developing rules that will hold producers and retailers to a lead-safe standard. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, after Monday's vote a CPSC spokesperson stated that it could still be years before a federal rule will go into effect.


Since 2004, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has researched and tested hundreds of pieces of jewelry for lead. CEH took legal action against the retailers and manufacturers of these products, resulting in industry wide reformulations and binding agreements with close to 100 companies, including J.C. Penny, Target, Mervyns, Sears, Toys R Us, and Kmart.  Children's jewelry at these stores will fully be lead-safe in September 2007.


This week's report from Sen. Barak Obama and Rep. Henry Waxman reveals that lead-laden jewelry and trinkets are sold at Capitol building gift stores, and the members are advancing their proposal to ban lead in children's products.  This week also brought mounting evidence about the widespread problem of lead contamination in children's costume jewelry from an upcoming published study of lead in metal jewelry.


CEH continues to test children's jewelry and advocate for the adoption of strict standards for children's health.  "It's our hope that the CPSC will take a protective and comprehensive approach to regulating lead in these common children's products" added Michael Green, "These harmful products have been found in the seat of our government, and it's due time for strict standards to reach the federal level." 

Photos of tainted jewelry and other information can be found here

CPSC statement can be found here

Report on lead jewelry found in the Capitol's gift shops can be found here