Lead-based jewelry for kids is recalled

More than a half-million pieces of Chinese-made children's jewelry contaminated with lead are being recalled, officials announced Wednesday.

The recalled merchandise involves 205,000 pieces sold by Family Dollar Stores fdo, 200,000 pieces sold by Michaels Stores, 43,000 charm bracelets and tack pin sets sold by Big Lots big and 45,000 stretchable bracelets imported by Cherrydale Fundraising, 10,400 necklaces and bracelets manufactured by Colossal Jewelry & Accessories, and 4,500 necklace and earring sets made by La Femme NY 2, officials announced.

The enforcement action was a cooperative effort by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC said it was tipped about the hazardous jewelry by Cuomo's office. In addition to the recall, a number of retailers, including Big Lots and Michaels, agreed in a settlement to immediately stop sales of lead-tainted jewelry.

"Today's metal jewelry recalls are a good example of when CPSC partners with a state agency that shares our commitment to protecting children from products with dangerous lead," spokesman Scott Wolfson said. "Metal jewelry is a product where one child has died in the past and others have suffered lead poisoning."

A total of 507,900 pieces were involved in the recall.

The CPSC works with companies to issue recalls when it finds consumer goods that can be harmful. Most such recalls are voluntary. Under current regulations, children's products found to have more than .06% lead are usually subject to a recall, in which the company must reimburse consumers for the value of the product, provide a replacement or offer a repair.

In March 2006 a Minnesota boy died of lead poisoning after swallowing a metal pendant from a charm bracelet that came with a pair of Reebok shoes. That incident resulted in a recall.

In December of last year the CPSC voted unanimously to move forward in a process that could ultimately lead to a ban on children's jewelry containing more than .06% lead by weight. The commission is hoping to move to the next stage of enacting the ban before then end of January 2008.

On Wednesday, Wolfson said: "Parents should be very cautious during this holiday season when shopping for children's jewelry."

Other regional retailers who reached agreements with Cuomo's office to discontinue sales of affected products include Pure Allure of Oceanside, Calif., and Buckwholesale.com, of Tucker, Ga., Dollar Days International of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Describing the enforcement action further, Cuomo said several companies will pay fines.

"My office has undertaken an ongoing and extensive investigation into lead levels in children's jewelry, and taken swift, enforceable action to remove contaminated products from stores," he said.

Cuomo commended Michaels Stores and Big Lots for acting quickly and "agreeing to safeguards against lead contamination."

"It was blown a little bit out of proportion," said Keith Flike, president of Yankee One Dollar, one of the regional retailers that settled with Cuomo. "It wasn't a practice, it was a mistake that slipped through our vendor."

A few hundred items were sold, he said, and the remaining three dozen bracelets for children or adults were immediately removed from Yankee's stores in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Flike said he agreed to sign the agreement not to sell items with unsafe levels of lead because that's been the company policy.

In a statement, Michaels said it removed all Pure Allure products suspected of lead contamination from its store shelves when it learned about Cuomo's investigation. The company added that it conducts routine checks with vendors and its own independent testing.

Cuomo said that some of the 35 products his office investigated contained as much as 1,000 times the federal safety standard. Most of the jewelry was made in China, some was from Thailand and India, and some had no clear record of where the items were manufactured, said John Milgrim, a spokesman for the attorney general.

Big Lots, which agreed to pay a $1,000 penalty under the settlement, has 1,300 discount stores nationwide selling a variety of goods from toys and clothing to furniture. The privately -held Michaels does not have to pay a penalty, officials said. Michaels is the nation's largest arts and crafts retailer and has more than 950 stores in the United States and Canada. It also operates specialty stores under the names Aaron Brothers, Recollections, Star Decorators Wholesale and Artistree manufacturing facility.

The other companies settling with Cuomo are:

• A Dollar in Henrietta, N.Y., near Rochester, will pay a $500 penalty.

• Buckwholesale.com, of Tucker, Ga., will pay $10,000.

• Colossal Jewelry and Accessories of Basking Ridge, N.J., will pay $8,000.

• Dollar Days International of Scottsdale, Ariz., will pay $5,000.

• Grand 99 Cent Store in Bronx, N.Y.

• Ming 99 Cent City in Colonie, N.Y., near Albany.

• Pure Allure of Oceanside, Calif., will pay $10,000.

• Quality 99 Cents in Uniondale, N.Y.

• The $ Limit of White Plains, N.Y., will pay $1,000.

• Yankee One Dollar, based in Waterford, N.Y., will pay $1,000.