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California Finds Lead-Tainted Kid Jewelry

Jewelry items found in Southern California stores and warehouses contained dangerously high lead levels and were imported from China with labels proclaiming them lead-free.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Several dozen pieces of children's and religious jewelry with dangerously high lead levels have been found in Southern California stores and warehouses, state regulators announced Tuesday.

Most of the items were imported from China and packaged with labels proclaiming them lead-free, the Department of Toxic Substances Control said in a statement.

Ingesting lead can cause brain damage or other health problems in infants and toddlers.

State law prohibits the use of materials in children's jewelry that contain more than .06 percent lead.

Regulators said material from one children's necklace tested at nearly 74 percent lead.

Other items included religious medallions and crosses, which some people kiss while praying, the agency said.

"Lead is a toxic metal which does not belong in jewelry, particularly children's jewelry," acting director Maziar Movassaghi said in the statement.

Jewelry containing lead poses a particular concern because children are prone to placing it in their mouths, which can result in lead absorption at dangerous levels, Movassaghi said.

The items were found during inspections at six warehouses and stores, spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe said.

It was unclear how many more of the items may have been sold or how many might have been distributed outside California.

The agency does not have the power to issue a recall, but investigators were working with distributors to voluntarily stop sales, Fadipe said.

One of the items was a pair of earrings from importer New Choy Inc. of Vernon.

"We stopped selling those items and we are going to dispose of it," manager Hans Lee said.

The manager said the company was still trying to determine how many of the earrings had been sold. He said most went to buyers in South America and few, if any, were sold in California.

The company's buyer was unaware of the high lead levels because the Chinese sellers assured her they were lead-free.

"She believed those guys," Lee said.

Andy Bae, vice president of the Amuse retail accessories store in Panorama City, said the company pulled six or seven types of merchandise, mainly rings and brooches, after learning they had tested for high lead levels.

He estimated only about a dozen pieces had been sold, but the store planned to post a notification at the store urging purchasers to return them.

The company also has contacted 20 to 30 manufacturers and asked them to provide test results and written certifications that their goods meet state lead-level limits, Bae said.

"Everyone was just assuring us orally that their products were safe and their tags also said lead-free," he said. "If our vendors don't comply, we will no longer do business with them."

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