Washington state investigators found that more than 15,000 people bought school supplies and jewelry geared toward young children that contained dangerous levels of lead and cadmium from Amazon in 2017 and 2018.
Even after Amazon was notified of the illegal children’s products and said it had removed them, investigators found some of the same products again, as well as others that contained the metals at levels well beyond the legal maximum. Both lead and cadmium can cause damage to the nervous system, liver, kidneys and other internal organs, and are especially harmful to children.
Under an agreement announced Thursday by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Amazon must require third-party sellers of these products to provide certificates proving their safety and compliance with U.S. and Washington consumer-protection statutes. Manufacturers and importers already must have such certification but ordinarily, they aren’t required to show it to retailers or distributors. Amazon admits no wrongdoing in the agreement.
“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.”
“While so many of us benefit from the convenience of online retailers, the products they sell shouldn’t harm our families or the environment where we live,” said Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “This is especially true with products marketed for kids. I appreciate the close collaboration with the Attorney General in supporting the enforcement of the Children’s Safe Product Act, and I’m proud of the long-term difference we at Ecology can make with our product testing efforts.”
The Seattle-based technology and commerce giant will also pay Ferguson’s office $700,000, funding for continued investigations into environmental and product safety issues.
The products, mostly made in China, were sold on Amazon by third-party merchants, an increasingly important part of its retail business. These sellers, who use Amazon’s marketplace and logistics network to reach customers, in 2018 represented 58% of the company’s gross merchandise sales — a fact touted by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in his annual letter to shareholders last month. Amazon collected nearly $43 billion in commissions and fees from third-party sellers in 2018.
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