Janine DeFao, SF Chronicle

More than 70 companies have agreed to reduce the amount of lead
in children's costume jewelry that they sell
and distribute, according to a lawsuit settlement announced

Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland called the
settlement in Alameda County Superior Court a landmark in protecting children
from the risks of lead exposure, which can cause brain damage,
kidney damage, hearing loss and impaired growth.

The settlement will create the nation's first legally binding standards for lead
in jewelry, they said.

Children have suffered lead poisoning when they have
swallowed or sucked on jewelry containing high amounts of lead,
most of which is manufactured overseas, said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for
the Oakland
nonprofit, an environmental advocacy group.

Margulis said his nonprofit was aware of seven cases of jewelry-related
lead poisoning nationwide since 1998.

In one case, a 6-year-old San Jose
girl suffered lead poisoning in December 2004 after placing a
charm in her mouth. That case led to a recall of 2.8 million
metal charms sold at Michaels Stores and other crafts retailers.

The 71 retailers and distributors involved in the
settlement include Target, Kmart, Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears and Disney Stores.
Michaels was not a defendant in the suit.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, and four other companies did not agree
to the settlement. Wal-Mart officials did not return a call
for comment.

Lockyer, the Center for Environmental Health and As You Sow, a corporate
watchdog group, sued the companies in June 2004, saying they violated California's Proposition
65 by failing to warn consumers about the risks of lead
contained in metal and plastic jewelry.

Under the settlement, metal jewelry parts must contain no
more than 600 parts per million of lead while plastic pieces
can contain no more than 200 parts per million by 2008. Testing by the Center
for Environmental Health found lead levels in plastic cords as
high as 20,000 parts per million and metal coatings as high as 165,000 parts
per million.

In tests by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and others, metal
parts have contained more than 500,000 parts per million. The commission last
year urged jewelry manufacturers not to
exceed 600 parts per million.

The companies also have agreed to pay nearly $1.9 million,
including $325,000 for consumer education and $250,000 for a jewelry
testing fund, according to the settlement.