Target, Walmart and importer Larose targeted in New York lawsuit over for sales of lead-contaminated children’s toys

 New York states’ Attorney General has filed  lawsuit against 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 (ppm). The findings of the Attorney General’s investigation previously resulted in a nationwide recall of the toys.

The lawsuit alleges that Target, Walmart, and LaRose violated multiple New York State laws – including those related to selling hazardous toys, as well as deceptive acts and false advertising – by importing, distributing, selling, or holding for sale thousands of Cra-Z-Jewelz kits in New York between 2015 and 2016. The suit 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.

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 (ppm) – levels that exceeded the 100 ppm limit established under the federal Consumer Product Safety Act for children’s products. The Attorney General’s office determined that the same kits supplied by LaRose were offered for sale by Walmart stores in New York.

Following the reporting of the Attorney General’s findings, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, LaRose, and the Attorney General’s office all conducted additional testing of the wristbands that corroborated the Attorney General’s initial findings of high lead contamination. LaRose then issued a national recall of the jewelry-making kits.

The lawsuit announced today stems from these finding and the Attorney General’s follow-up investigation. The suit alleges that Target, Walmart, and LaRose Industries engaged in repeated illegality and fraud under New York State law by committing thousands of violations of state law prohibitions on importing, distributing, and selling hazardous toys; deceiving consumers; and false advertising. The suit asks the court to assess civil penalties against the companies for violating these state laws; penalties could collectively range from $70 to $6,000 for each Cra-Z-Jewelz kit the companies sought to sell in New York.

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. These measures include those that would:

  • permanently create the position of Director of Sourcing and Quality Control, as well as a Quality Control Manual and a Compliance Program;
  • require vendors of finished products to obtain high-risk components and raw materials from pre-approved suppliers;
  • require vendors of finished products to test samples of components and raw materials;
  • require the importer or a third party – rather than the manufacturer – to select the toys to be tested for compliance with applicable safety requirements;
  • ensure timely compliance with federal regulations that require certificates of compliance to accompany products and be furnished to retailers; and
  • conduct unannounced audits of vendors.

Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause significant harm to human health. 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.

This matter is being handled for Attorney General Underwood by Affirmative Litigation Section Chief Yueh-ru Chu, Assistant Attorney General Channing Wistar-Jones, Chief Scientist Jodi Feld, and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, all of the Environmental Protection Bureau, and Senior Advisor and Special Counsel Laura Wood. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Matthew Colangelo.