AG sues Target, Walmart, and LaRose over lead in kids’ toys

New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood, has sued Target Corporation, Walmart Inc., and importer LaRose Industries, for allegedly committing thousands of violations of multiple New York laws governing the safety of children’s toys sold in the state.

The action stems from testing conducted by the attorney general’s office that found “Cra-Z-Jewelz” jewelry-making kits that were imported by LaRose, and sold by the retailers Target and Walmart in New York, contained parts with lead levels up to 10 times higher than the federal limit of 100 parts per million, according to a release from the attorney general’s office.

The findings previously resulted in a nationwide recall of the toys.

Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause significant harm to human health, according to the release, which outlined the dangers of lead exposure. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. Children are especially vulnerable to these and other health risks posed by exposure to lead. Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia.

Attorney General Underwood’s lawsuit, filed in Albany County Supreme Court on Dec. 13, seeks civil penalties from the retailers and LaRose for the alleged violations, and a court order to require the companies to implement additional measures to ensure they do not again sell children’s toys containing high levels of lead in New York. Penalties could collectively range from $70 to $6,000 for each Cra-Z-Jewelz kit the companies sought to sell in New York.    

In 2015 and 2016, the Attorney General’s office purchased a number of Cra-Z-Jewelz jewelry-making kits from stores in New York City, Long Island, and the Syracuse and Buffalo areas. Tests revealed that the wristbands associated with several kits sold at Target and supplied by LaRose contained lead at levels of 120 to 980 parts per million — levels that exceeded the 100 ppm limit established under the federal Consumer Product Safety Act for children’s products.

The lawsuit announced on Dec. 13 stems from these finding and the attorney general’s follow-up investigation.

The suit also seeks a court order to require the companies to take actions to ensure that toys with high lead levels do not end up on the retailers’ store shelves. The attorney general office’s investigation pointed to a troubling breach in the safety net that is supposed to keep these dangerous products from being sold.

As a result of this investigation, LaRose adopted a number of affirmative measures to better ensure that the imported toys they sell comply with federal lead limits. The lawsuit asks the court to direct LaRose to maintain these measures and to take additional measures such as requiring vendors of finished products to obtain high-risk components and raw materials from pre-approved suppliers and to test samples of components and raw materials.

Target and Walmart have thus far refused requests from the Attorney General’s Office to take affirmative measures sufficient to ensure that they do not again import, distribute, and sell other toys that place New York children at risk of adverse health consequences from lead exposure.

Because of this, the lawsuit asks the court to direct the companies to adopt specific measures to ensure that the toys they sell do not again put New York children at risk from lead exposure, including:

— Conducting random product testing of imported toys to ensure they comply with applicable regulations; and

— Ensuring each imported toy has a valid certificate of compliance.

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