8 Oakland businesses fined for toxins in jewelry, accessories

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control says it found dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in costume jewelry and hair accessories being sold in Oakland and Los Angeles.

A KTVU crew visited four of those small retailers; two in Oakland's Chinatown and two along International Boulevard in East Oakland. All say they've been targeted unfairly.

KV Discount  is a variety store on 10th Street in Oakland's Chinatown. The owners Ken and Ann Voong say they've  been in business for 20 years.

They say state inspectors mailed them a notification a few months ago that their store was selling children's hair clips containing lead and cadmium

"Only nine pieces. They got only nine pieces. The hair clip...," says Ken Voong

The couple says inspectors informed them that nine pieces they were selling tested for dangerous levels of the toxins and the state fined them $1,300.

The Voongs say they bought the items from a wholesaler in San Jose.

"I'm sad. I can't sleep at night," says Ann Voong.

State law prohibits the manufacture, shipping and sale of costume jewelry and accessories that contain excessive amounts of lead or cadmium.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control says retailers are required to obtain certifications from suppliers that all jewelry and its components are in compliance with the law. 

Ann Voong showed KTVU where the hair clips were displayed, but says she no longer carries them after learning they are toxic.

"I pick it up and throw it away.  I no sell anymore," says Voong.

A few blocks away at Hong Fei Company on Webster Street.  the owner also says state inspectors came to her store.

She doesn't speak English, but in Cantonese, she says inspectors removed the items and fined her $750. 

KTVU also went to two other stores in East Oakland that state officials also enforced action against, but the owners were not there.

As for Ann Voong, she says she would never have sold the items had she known about the toxins. She had used the hair clips on her own grandchildren.

"I feel very bad. Now I know, I stop. I have grandchildren," says Voong.

A spokesman for the Department of Toxic Substances Control says this enforcement program has also previously targeted big box stores, but that these types of non-compliant items are most often found in smaller retailers.

State officials plan to provide more information by holding two community meetings in Oakland on July 13 and July 20.

For more information, go to http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/