3 big retailers will settle lead claims

Three major retailers have agreed to pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a lawsuit stemming from the companies’ sale of toys containing excessive amounts of lead, the California attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Under the agreement, Target Corp., Toys R Us Inc. and Kmart would pay a total of $454,000 in civil penalties and other fines.

The retailers, along with several manufacturers including Mattel Inc., were sued by the attorney general’s office and the Los Angeles city attorney’s office in November 2007 after the firms were found to have sold or made toys with unsafe levels of lead paint.

The products violated federal toy safety standards and Proposition 65, a state law dealing with toxic substances, and led to a spate of recalls.


“Our enforcement action will serve as a reminder to companies that they have a responsibility to make sure that children aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals from their toys,” said Harrison Pollak, a state deputy attorney general. “The settlement provides a remedy for past violations and makes it less likely that there will be future violations of lead standards.”

The settlement will be filed in Alameda County Superior Court today for approval. Under the agreement Target would pay $210,000, Toys R Us would pay $175,000 and Kmart would pay $69,000, according to the attorney general’s office.

A spokeswoman for Target declined to comment. Kmart said the settlement resolved past concerns and added that the chain’s toys meet “all applicable state and federal safety standards.” A Toys R Us representative could not be reached.

Lead can be toxic if ingested and is considered particularly dangerous for children, whose brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its effects.