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CUSTOMS & CPSC SEIZE HAZARDOUS CRAYONS & CHALK TO PROTECT CHILDREN

 WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Children's crayons and chalk containing hazardous lead are being seized by the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in an operation dubbed "Dead Lead." Most of the illegal shipments, which originated in the Far East, were seized at the Los Angeles Seaport before the Christmas shopping season.
 The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) bans lead in quantities which present a hazard to children. In addition, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act requires that all art materials be reviewed by a toxicologist for chronic hazards and appropriate labeling; therefore, the seized crayons and chalk are either banned hazardous substances or misbranded.
 "Lead can be hazardous in the hands of children," said George Weise, Customs commissioner and father of two. "The fact that kids' chalk and crayons are the culprits, and that they are being imported in time for the holidays, makes this especially onerous."
 During fiscal 93, Customs garnered 18 seizures of children's crayons and chalk, most of which contained hazardous lead. The 569,169 retail packages had a total domestic value of $370,799. The Port of Los Angeles accounted for 15 of the seizures; Baltimore, 2; and Tampa, one. Several of these shipments were seized because of failure to be labeled in accordance with the art material amendments to the FHSA.
 Testing by a U.S. Customs Laboratory in Los Angeles first detected lead in children's art materials in February, 1993. Contaminated items included colored chalk and certain colors in crayons. About 40 percent of the products tested contained lead.
 Most of the crayons and chalk are in plain boxes marked "made in China," with a statement purporting "non-toxic" contents. Other markings indicate "for children's use," and "for home, office or school."
 The Customs Service and the CPSC have joined together to head off such lead-based crayons and chalk at U.S. ports of entry. The CPSC administers the pertinent laws, and Customs helps enforce them. Commission Chairman Jacqueline Jones-Smith said: "CPSC is particularly concerned about hazardous children's
products. No product intended for children should be a lead poisoning hazard."
 Lead has long been recognized as a hazardous substance, especially to young children, fetuses and infants. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. The mission of the U.S. Customs Service, in addition to collecting revenue, is to prevent illegal products from entering the United States at ports of entry, and to guard against the export of sensitive technology to certain countries. Customs enforces some 1600 provisions of law for 60 government agencies.
 CPSC's mission is to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The commission's objective is to reduce the estimated 28.6 million injuries and 21,700 deaths associated each year with the 15,000 different types of consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction.
 -0- 1/3/94
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: To report an unsafe consumer product or a product-related injury, consumers should call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's toll-free hotline at 800-638-2772. A tele- typewriter for the hearing impaired is available at 800-638-8270./
 /CONTACT: Dennis Shimkoski of U.S. Customs Service, 202-927-2205/


CO: U.S. Customs Service; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:

IH-DC -- DC002 -- 8439 01/03/94 10:15 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 3, 1994
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