Photo by California Department of Justice
UPDATE: Upon further research it was discovered that the 16 pieces of jewelry with lead in them were from Richmond except two from Oakland and one from Emeryville, rather than all of the stores being from Richmond except two from Oakland and one from Emeryville.
Pieces of jewelry purchased from Rainbow and 5-7-9 stores in May yielded "highly toxic" lead content, including one piece that was 97 percent lead, the attorney general's office said in a statement released yesterday.
Of 16 pieces of costume jewelry from China, 15 contained more than 50 percent lead and one piece with the words "kids" and "lead free" on it had a clasp of 81 percent lead.
The attorney general's office said all the stores were in Richmond, except one in Emeryville and two in Oakland. The stores are not allowed to sell "plated metal components with more than 6 percent lead," according to a letter from Attorney General Jerry Brown to the retailer.
Rainbow Apparel's attorney Jeffrey Margulies said Wednesday that the jewelry identified in the attorney general's notice has been pulled from store shelves, adding that the attorney general's notification was the first indication that something was wrong with the jewelry.
The store does not test its products but rather presumes that its purchases from domestic vendors are safe and legal, he said. "We are moving quickly to try to figure out how this happened," he said, adding that actions taken in the future will depend on what Rainbow Apparel learns as it looks into the issue. The retailer's statement offered insight into how the pieces made it to their shelves:
All of our jewelry suppliers represent to us that the merchandise we purchase from them is safe for use by consumers, and our contracts require them to provide products that comply with all legal requirements, including lead content. Rainbow and 5-7-9 did not manufacture or import the items in the attorney general’s notice, all of which were supplied to them by domestic companies.
This is the fourth notice the attorney general's office sent to Rainbow since May 22, 2009, Brown wrote:
We understand that the Rainbow parties have instructed their vendors to provide compliant jewelry, and after each notice of violation it has addressed the violation with the vendors involved. But clearly that is not enough. Some of the jewelry at issue here has components that would be highly toxic, and potentially lethal, if ingested, and all of it contains sufficient lead to contribute to long-term health risks … The company must do more to stop selling jewelry that is potentially dangerous and that violates the law.
Brown's communications director Jim Finefrock said the next step is calling a meeting to create a plan to keep lead-based jewelry off the shelves of these stores.
"They need to come up with an action plan," he said.
As a part of a 2006 lawsuit settlement, Rainbow Apparel and other stores said they would not sell jewelry with "more than traces of lead" in it. Funds from that settlement, brought by the attorney general and two environmental groups, are now used by the Center for Environmental Health to keep an eye on retailers.