- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s health commissioner has announced a proposal to ban the sale of jewelry having dangerous levels of lead, saying that federal regulations on the metal in children’s jewelry are vague and have too many loopholes.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein’s proposal would require city health officials to randomly test about 100 pieces of jewelry that might be used by children younger than 6.

Products found to exceed the federal limit would be banned from sale in the city. Stores that continue to sell a banned product could be fined up to $1,000 for each offense.

His proposal does not require action by the City Council or the mayor.

Dr. Sharfstein said the Baltimore City Health Department surveyed six sellers of jewelry made for children and found that four of 17 products contained unsafe amounts of lead.

“The fact that we keep finding lead in these products, despite the fact that it’s unsafe, is a clear sign that the federal regulation has failed,” he said at a press conference Monday.

Dr. Sharfstein said U.S. regulations concerning lead in children’s jewelry allow contaminated jewelry imported from countries such as China, India, Mexico and Honduras to find its way onto the shelves of U.S. stores.

But Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said the agency recently stepped up efforts to keep stores from selling hazardous jewelry.

“We believe we are having an impact on the marketplace,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

In the past two years, the commission has required retailers to recall more than 168 million pieces of children’s jewelry because of high lead levels, she said.

Of those pieces, 150 million had been imported from India and were sold in vending machines. They were recalled in 2004 after a 4-year-old Oregon boy suffered neurological damage from swallowing a piece of jewelry purchased from a machine.

Miss Davis said that most companies comply voluntarily with product recalls issued by the commission and that companies that refuse to comply can be fined.

Dr. Sharfstein plans to implement the new regulation shortly after Sept. 29, the deadline for public comment.

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