Attorney General Sues Costume Jewelry Retailers Under State Toxins Law
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Alameda Superior Court alleging that retailers and distributors of certain brands of costume jewelry are not complying with Proposition 65, a state law requiring businesses to provide "clear and reasonable" warnings about any product that could cause reproductive or developmental harm, the Sacramento Bee reports (Payne, Sacramento Bee, 6/24). According to the lawsuit, state tests found levels of lead "well above" state standards -- 0.5 parts per billion -- in costume jewelry that retailers chiefly market to teenagers and younger children (Thompson, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/24). Lead can affect mental development in children and cause high blood pressure, stomach pains and brain damage in adults over time (Sacramento Bee, 6/24). The lawsuit names Burlington Coat Factory, Claire's, Express, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Macy's, Mervyn's, Nordstrom, Ross, Sears, Target, Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart, along with several of their affiliates and parent companies. The lawsuit requests that the court prohibit the stores from selling such jewelry in California without posting warnings about lead exposure, as required by law. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties of as much as $2,500 for each violation.
Lockyer's suit was prompted by Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health, which planned to sue 43 retailers for inadequate lead warnings related to costume jewelry. Under state law, the attorney general and county prosecutors must first refuse to act before private lawsuits can be filed (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/24). Pamela Williams, vice president of the California Retailers Association, said that retailers are trying to determine which costume jewelry brands and manufacturers are involved and if the jewelry actually exceeds state lead levels. Williams added that retailers will post warnings or stop selling the costume jewelry if the lead levels do surpass state guidelines (Sacramento Bee, 6/24). Jeffrey Margulies, a lawyer representing six of the retailers, said that his clients are working with Lockyer to determine which products contain lead levels above state standards but added that his clients are concerned that they are targets of a lawsuit for products they do not manufacture, the AP/Union-Tribune reports. "As retailers, obviously the companies are deeply concerned about the welfare of their customers, but they are not currently aware of any hazard posed by the jewelry," Margulies said (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.