AG Ferguson orders Amazon to remove toxic school supplies, jewelry from marketplace
SEATTLE — On Thursday, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Amazon will commit to nationwide corporate reforms after his office’s investigation found dozens of children’s school supplies sold on its online marketplace had illegal levels of toxic metals, lead, and cadmium.
According to a release from his office, Ferguson’s investigation revealed that individuals in Washington and across the country made at least 15,188 purchases of products with illegal levels of lead and cadmium from Amazon.com. When it learned of the results of the investigation, Amazon contacted the purchasers in early 2019 encouraging the disposal of the toxic items.
To resolve the investigation without a lawsuit, Amazon entered into a nationwide legally binding agreement to block the sale of children’s schools supplies and jewelry on Amazon.com without lab reports and other proof from the sellers that the products are not toxic.
In addition, Amazon will pay the Attorney General’s Office $700,000, which will be used to fund future environmental protection efforts, including future investigations into toxic children’s products.
“As a parent, when I buy products for my kids, I expect them to be safe,” said Ferguson. “All retailers must ensure that their products do not pose a threat to Washington children. If they don’t, they will hear from my office.”
Amazon also commented on the situation saying,
“Customer safety is Amazon’s top priority. We worked with our selling partners to verify that the school supplies and children’s jewelry in our store are safe and enhanced our processes to verify the safety of these products moving forward. We welcome ongoing collaboration with the Attorney General and other agencies to promote customer safety.”
Both state and federal laws prohibit the sale or distribution of children’s products that contain lead or cadmium above certain levels. Lead can cause a variety of neurological problems in children, and in large amounts, can lead to organ failure and death.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act prohibits levels of lead exceeding 100 parts-per-million (ppm) in any accessible component of a children’s product. Under state law, levels of cadmium, a metal known to cause cancer, cannot exceed 40 ppm.
In total, two rounds of tests identified 51 products sold on Amazon.com that tested positive for illegal levels of lead and cadmium. In the first round of testing, 16 of the 43 products from Amazon tested positive for illegal levels of toxic metals. In the second round of tests, the two agencies found that 35 of 41 products examined exceed the legal limits.
The Department of Ecology paid for the first round of testing and the Attorney General’s Office funded the second round.
These items featured cartoon characters, plush exteriors and bright primary colors and were marketed to children younger than 12. In particular, some sellers’ pencil pouches had component parts containing approximately 8,500 ppm of lead — more than 80 times the legal limit. In one test, a pencil pouch contained more than 35 times the legal limit of lead and nearly 29 times the legal limit of cadmium.
Amazon also performed its own tests on several products and confirmed that the levels were higher than those allowed by state and federal laws.
Children’s school supplies and jewelry found to exceed the legal limits of these toxic metals include:
The legally binding agreement, filed in King County Superior Court, requires Amazon to discontinue the sale of any children’s school supplies or jewelry containing lead and cadmium levels exceeding those allowed by state and federal laws.
Amazon also will require all current sellers of these children’s products nationwide to provide certifications and lab testing from an accredited lab showing that their products are safe. The company identified approximately 18,000 sellers on its marketplace that offer around 900,000 individual children’s school supplies and jewelry products.
Any future sellers must provide this certification before listing their products for sale. Moreover, if the Attorney General or Washington Department of Ecology advise Amazon of any children’s school supplies or jewelry that exceed safe levels, Amazon must remove the product from its online marketplace within two business days.
After Ferguson concluded his investigation and shared the results with Amazon, the online retailer contacted the consumers who purchased the more than 15,000 affected products, including nearly 600 of which sold to Washingtonians, and provided more than $200,000 in refunds.
Amazon sent these notices to the email address associated with the purchaser’s account. Amazon also delivered this information to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to initiate a recall process.
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