Reebok to pay $1 mln fine for lead jewelry: U.S. CPSC

Flowers surround a sign at the entrance to the world headquarters of Reebok in Canton, Massachusetts August 3, 2005. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Athletic shoe maker Reebok International Ltd will pay a record $1 million civil penalty to settle allegations that it imported and distributed charm bracelets that contained toxic levels of lead, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday.

The agency said in March 2006, a 4-year-old boy from Minneapolis swallowed the bracelet’s heart-shaped pendant and died.

According to a March 2006 report by local newspaper Star Tribune, the lead level in the blood of Jarnell Brown, 4, was three times higher than what health officials consider to be dangerous.

Brown’s death sparked a nationwide recall of some 300,000 bracelets, which were given away with the purchase of various styles of children’s Reebok footwear, the newspaper said.

The penalty is the largest for a Federal Hazardous Substances Act violation, the CPSC said, and follows the bracelet recall.

“This civil penalty sends a clear message that the CPSC will not allow companies to put children’s safety at risk,” CPSC acting Chairman Nancy Nord said in a statement. “Preventing dangerous metal jewelry from reaching the hands of children is a priority for our agency.”

Reebok, a unit of Germany’s Adidas, in agreeing to settle the matter, denied that it violated federal law, the commission said.

Reporting by Kristina Cooke and Karey Wutkowski, editing by Maureen Bavdek