Items with lead pulled from Hill gift shops

Seven items sold in Capitol Hill gift shops have been removed after it was discovered that they contained high and “potentially lethal” levels of lead, according to a report released yesterday by House Government Reform Committee Democrats.

The products were removed from store shelves a month ago when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) notified gift shops that preliminary reports showed that some products had unsafe lead levels.

“These items contained enough lead to seriously harm children who handle, mouth, or ingest them. Their presence in Capitol gift shops is an unnecessary risk to children,” the report says.

Capitol bracelets and eagle pendants, as well as a Capitol dome pin, Capitol charm and souvenir spoon all contained high levels of lead, the report said. In all, 13 items were tested. One $4.95 silver-plated bracelet contained 38 percent lead, a potentially lethal amount, the report says. 

“Items in question have been removed at the request of the [Chief Administrative Officer],” said Salley Collins, press secretary for the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over a gift shop in the Longworth office building.

The Government Reform Committee’s special investigations division sent items to an independent laboratory, Penniman & Browne, for testing. If merchandise contained more than 600 parts-per-million of lead, it was considered excessive. Paint containing this amount of lead has been banned. California and Illinois have banned children’s items containing this level of lead, the report says.

The committee’s report did not contain an acid-reduction test, which would determine whether the products would be lethal if ingested.

“The CAO has reached out to the manufacturer, to see whether an acid-reduction test has been performed and if so, what the results were,” Collins said.

A representative for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the group in charge of gift shops in the Capitol, said the items “were pulled immediately” and did not include children’s jewelry. About 60 necklaces were sold last spring and summer, the representative said.

“The historical society has taken steps, pulled the merchandise and contacted all the vendors,” said a member of the Historical Society, who chose to remain anonymous. “There’s no way to get in contact with anyone who bought the necklaces. There are such a massive number of visitors that we can only hope that when people see the media they do something about it.”

Waxman and Obama have called on the Bush administration’s Consumer Product Safety Commission to prohibit lead from being used in children’s products. Last week, the commission’s scientific staff recommended the adoption of the standards.

“No parents should have to worry that a gift or souvenir purchased in the Capitol will poison their children,” Waxman said in a release yesterday. “The Bush administration should give families an early holiday gift by banning these unsafe products.”

The Capitol has four gift shops, located in the Crypt of the Capitol, the Senate side of the Capitol, Longworth and the Dirksen office building.

“It’s long past time that we get dangerous lead out of kid’s [sic] toys. That would be one of the best gifts the administration could give parents this holiday season,” Obama said in a press release.