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Issue Date: Vol. 44, No. 7, July 2004, Posted On: 7/11/2004

CPSC, 4 Major Suppliers Launch Recall Of Metal Toys; Industry Forms Safe Jewelry Council To Set Standards

Hank Schlesinger

WASHINGTON, DC - The Consumer Product Safety Commission is coordinating the recall of vendible metal jewelry with four toy importers. About 150 million pieces are being removed from machines as a result.

The participating importers are A&A Global Industries (Cockeysville, MD); Brand Imports (Scottsdale, AZ); Cardinal Distributing Co. (Baltimore, MD) and L.M. Becker & Co., Inc. (Kimberly, WI). Collectively, the four companies supply about 90% of the toy jewelry found in vending machines at present.

The commission has determined that about half of the toy jewelry contains levels of lead that may pose a risk of lead poisoning in children. "Because it is difficult to distinguish the lead jewelry from the non-lead jewelry, the industry decided to recall all of it," CPSC explained.

Although suppliers usually are not allowed to provide recall information to their customers prior to official CPSC publication, the commission granted an exception in this case because of the very large number of vending machines in the field. The four importers accordingly have notified their customers of the recall, and provided instructions on returning the affected merchandise.

The National Bulk Vendors Association pointed out that lead is found only in die-cast jewelry. Like all items sold through bulk venders, the toys affected by the recall had been tested by independent laboratories, using established ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) standards, and certified as complying with all applicable rules and regulations. CPSC tests, however, suggested that the surface coatings, applied to prevent lead from leaching out of the cores, might nonetheless make the metal accessible under certain conditions.

NBVA added that the commission has not yet described its testing method, although it has promised to do so. And even if every item were fully compliant with CPSC rules and guidelines, the commission is empowered to order a recall of any product as "potentially dangerous."

The four importers have established a nonprofit organization to strengthen the procedures used to ensure safety. The new Safe Jewelry Council will work closely with government agencies such as CPSC to set and maintain safety standards for toy jewelry. It will adhere to strict membership criteria, including product testing policies and methods.

The far-reaching recall follows last year's incident in which a four-year-old boy in Oregon swallowed a vended pendant that remained in his digestive tract for weeks, eventually causing lead poisoning. That event led L.M. Becker & Co. to recall 1.4 million of the toy necklaces in September, 2003. The victim appears to have recovered completely.

In March of this year, Brand Imports agreed to recall a million children's rings when CPSC determined that the level of lead they contained might pose a risk to children. No incidents were reported.

NBVA observed that the bulk vending industry has an enviable safety record over its nearly 100-year history. "In the 54-year existence of the National Bulk Vendors Association, we know only of a single incident where a child swallowed a pendant reportedly containing lead," the association said. "This single incident must be viewed in relation to many millions of jewelry items previously sold."

Information on the recall can be found online at www.toyjewelryrecall.com , and a copy of the CPSC press release is at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html  (under "July"). NBVA may be contacted by calling (312) 521-2400.

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