Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced his office discovered high lead levels in parts of several children's jewelry-making kits supplied by LaRose Industries and sold in K-Mart, Target and Toys-R-Us stores in Long Island, New York City and the Syracuse and Buffalo areas. In some instances, the toys contained lead up to 10-times greater than federal child safety limits. The same kits were also offered for sale in Rochester and by other retailers in New York.
Based on these findings, Schneiderman is calling on LaRose, K-Mart, Target, Toys-R-Us and other retailers of Cra-Z-Art products in New York - including Amazon and Walmart - to immediately remove from sale and recall the products found to contain high lead levels, as well as any similar Cra-Z-Art products. He is also calling on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to require a national recall of these products.
Schneiderman has also launched an investigation to determine how these children's products containing high lead levels reached store shelves in New York. The AG is seeking information on companies' internal procedures and practices for interdicting products containing toxic chemicals before they reach the market, as well as their adherence to state and federal laws governing the safety of children's products.
"Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers all have a responsibility to ensure that products intended for use by children are safe," Schneiderman said. "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. In addition to calling for immediate action to remove these products from store shelves, my office will investigate - and hold accountable - those responsible for allowing toxic products to reach our children. No parents should have to worry that a toy they buy may poison their child."
In November 2014, on the heels of several nongovernmental investigations reporting toxic chemicals in toys and other children's products, Schneiderman wrote to retailers of children's products in New York - including all of those retailers he contacted over the weekend - reminding them of their obligation to protect children's safety from items that contain toxic chemicals. That letter can be found HERE.
As a follow-up action, in October and November 2015, and February, the attorney general's office purchased a number of products intended for use by children at stores in Long Island, New York City and the Syracuse and Buffalo areas. A CPSC-accepted laboratory tested products for levels of lead and other toxic metals. Tests revealed the wristbands associated with several Cra-Z-Art children's jewelry-making kits sold in Target, K-Mart and Toys R Us stores, and supplied by LaRose Industries, contained lead at levels of 120 to 980 parts per million (ppm) - levels that exceed the 100 ppm limit established under the federal Consumer Product Safety Act for children's products. The attorney general's office also determined the same kits were offered for sale at stores in Rochester and by other retailers in New York.
The Cra-z-Art jewelry-making kits found to contain wristbands with lead levels exceeding the federal children's safety lead limit were:
•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
The attorney general's letter calling for an immediate end of sales and a recall of the high-lead Cra-Z-Art products - as well as similar Cra-Z-Art products - was sent to retailers known to sell these products in New York: Amazon, Fishpond.com, Jet.com, K-Mart, Sears, Target, Toys-R-Us, Walmart and Yoyo.com, as well as known suppliers of the products: LaRose Industries and Shepher Distribution and Sales.
"Play should be a safe and fun experience for children that never puts them at risk," Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren said. "Children who grow up in safe environments are more likely to have better educational outcomes and access to good jobs later in life. By keeping toxic toys off the shelves, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is protecting our consumers, both in Rochester and across New York state."
"Children and families throughout our state are unknowingly exposed to harmful chemicals, including lead-based products, on a daily basis," said state Sen. Joe Robach, 56th District. "I am pleased to see that the attorney general is taking this issue seriously by cracking down on the sale of these harmful products in stores throughout New York."
"Empire State Consumer Project has been testing consumer products for over 40 years and is still finding lead in children's products," said Carol Chittenden, director, Empire State Consumer Project. "Lead is especially dangerous to children, because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. Lead can cause behavior and learning problems, including hyperactivity. Elevated lead levels are linked to lower IQs in children, which persist into adulthood. Lead, cadmium and heavy metals have no place in children's products."
"The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning and our community partners have been working for over a decade to eliminate all possible lead hazards from a child's environment - be it in toys or paint in pre-1978 homes - and our community has made significant progress," said Elizabeth McDade, executive director, Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning. "Lead is a neurotoxin that impairs the way the brain develops. The long-term cognitive and health deficits a child might incur as a result of lead poisoning are permanent and devastating. Imagining that situation as a result of playing with a toy is heartbreaking. The coalition stands with the attorney general and we are committed to working together to make sure every child is safe from all environmental toxins. We cannot thank Attorney General Schneiderman enough for his continued efforts to keep the children across NYS safe."
Under the CPSA, manufacturers and importers have a responsibility to certify - through a "Children's Product Certificate" - that products intended for use by children are safe and comply with limits established by the act. This certification, which is based on third-party testing by a CPSC-accepted laboratory, must be issued by either the manufacturer or importer, and must indicate compliance with applicable limits - including the 100-ppm limit for lead. The certificate must be furnished to distributors and retailers of the product.
Health professionals believe there is no safe level of lead exposure to children. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious - often irreversible - health impacts, including harming children's ability to learn and read, attention deficits, hyperactivity, irritability and other behavioral problems. At high levels, lead can cause brain damage and even death.