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Jewelry Distributor Fined For Selling Products Containing Lead

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-2153

December 19, 2008 - Ganz U.S.A., LLC, a Woodbridge, Ontario, distributor of consumer gift items, including imported jewelry and other metal products, will pay the State of Vermont $215,000 to settle a lawsuit over the sale of merchandise containing high amounts of lead to local retail stores. The settlement also requires the company to comply with strict limits on the amount of lead in consumer products. Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell hailed the settlement as an important step toward ensuring the safety of children’s products in Vermont; “protecting our kids from harm is our highest priority,” he said.

According to the State’s court complaint, filed in December 2007, lead is highly toxic, particularly to young children. Even very small amounts of lead can cause serious neurological damage, including drops in IQ and long-term behavioral problems, while higher exposures can cause acute effects, including seizures, coma or death. One source of exposure to lead is jewelry and similarly small metal objects, which young children can mouth or swallow.

New federal and state laws will cap the amount of lead allowed in children’s products at 600 parts per million (ppm), effective in February 2009. By contrast, 12 of 15 samples of Ganz jewelry, charms, ornaments and other metal products offered for sale in Vermont in 2007—many of them made in China—contained 8,339 to 435,736 ppm of lead, or 14 to 726 times the 600 ppm limit; and 4 items contained over 333,000 ppm of lead, 556 times the legal limit.

The Attorney General alleged that by distributing products that pose a substantial risk of serious injury, and by not disclosing the presence of lead in its products, Ganz engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. To its credit, Ganz acted quickly to remove metal products from the retail stores in Vermont that had purchased them.

The settlement, filed this week with the Washington Superior Court, requires Ganz to pay $75,000 to the State of Vermont to buy “wipe test” kits for use by local homeowners and tenants to test for lead in residential paint; $10,000 to purchase consumer products to determine if they contain a toxic substance or dangerous defect; and $130,000 in civil penalties and costs. In addition, Ganz will comply with these limits on the amount of lead in consumer products:

  • 200 ppm for small metal products, whether for children or not.
  • 600 ppm for any other metal products, phased down to 200 ppm in August 2009.
  • 90 ppm for paint or other surface coatings on children’s products in August 2009.
  • 90 ppm for paint or other surface coating on any product in August 2010.

The settlement also requires Ganz to test representative samples of its products for lead, to report to the Attorney General’s Office on products found to contain excessive lead, to provide updates on its regulatory compliance program, including the termination of suppliers who produce more than a miniscule quantity of non-compliant goods, and to offer refunds to any Vermont consumer who bought a Ganz metal product before the settlement.

For a copy of the settlement and related information, see the Attorney General’s lead webpage under “Enforcement Actions”.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.