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As punishment for violating the federal lead paint ban, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced nine children’s product manufacturers, importers and sellers, including Dollar General and Michael’s, have agreed to pay more than $500,000 in civil penalties. These penalties settle the allegations that the companies knowingly manufactured, imported, or sold toys and/or other children’s products with paint or surface coatings that contained high levels of lead. The high levels of lead found in the affected toys violated federal law due to the health risks lead poses in children.

In 1978, a federal ban was passed that prohibited children’s products from having more than .06 percent lead (by weight) in paints or surface coatings. The products involved in the settlement were recalled in 2007 and 2008, and include such items as pencil pouches, sunglasses, children’s metal jewelry, and Halloween baskets. Tests showed that the paint or surface coatings on these items contained lead in excess of .06 percent by weight. One firm even found products that contained surface coatings of nearly 60 percent lead.

It is unfortunate that these penalties are not higher. They amount to less than a slap on the wrist for these companies, whose conduct is unacceptable. Hopefully, most of the conduct was just grossly negligent, and not a true, wilfull violation of the law.

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