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Government Recalls Toy Jewelry Due to Lead Content

WASHINGTON -- The government issued a recall of the largest number of products ever, officials said, when it announced Thursday that 150 million toy bracelets, rings and necklaces that have been sold around the nation over the last 18 months will be removed by companies or should be discarded by parents because many of them contain dangerous amounts of lead, reported the New York Times.

The recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of the jewelry, which cost 25 cents to 75 cents and have been sold in 700,000 vending machines, comes after two earlier recalls of a total of 2.4 million pieces of similar jewelry over the last 10 months failed to curtail the problem.

One of the earlier recalls was prompted by a report that a 4-year-old Oregon boy suffered lead poisoning last year after swallowing a pendant he bought for a quarter in a gumball machine. The boy had 12 times the acceptable level of lead in his body, his parents have said.

Hal Stratton, chairman of the safety commission, said tests of some jewelry indicated lead concentration levels by weight as high as 69 percent. By comparison, Stratton said, the government prohibits the sale of paint that contains more than 0.06 percent lead.

Studies have consistently found that even small amounts of lead ingested by children can cause permanent neurological damage or behavior or learning problems. In recent decades, the incidence of lead poisoning has been reduced by regulations removing it from such products as paint and gasoline. But officials at the commission said Wednesday that its prevalence in a ubiquitous product like jewelry prompted the agency to act swiftly.

The toy jewelry is made in India. It is imported by four companies -- A.A. Global Industries of Cockeysville, Md.; Brand Imports of Scottsdale, Ariz.; the Cardinal Distribution Co. of Baltimore; and L.M. Becker of Kimberly, Wis. -- and represents about 90 percent of toy jewelry found in vending machines. In a letter to the commission, the companies said that they had "stopped the importation of all toy jewelry with lead."

The companies reached a settlement last week with the commission to stop importing jewelry with lead into the United States until they reached a separate agreement with the agency over acceptable lead levels in toys.

Officials said the jewelry included a variety of styles of rings, necklaces and bracelets. The rings are usually gold or silver in color. The necklaces typically have black cords or are gold or silver in color; other pieces are charm bracelets and bracelets with medallion links or fake stones.
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