Athletic shoe and apparel maker Reebok has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for importing and distributing charm bracelets that contained toxic levels of lead and resulted in the death of a four-year-old boy. The civil penalty is the largest ever for a violation of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and follows a 2006 recall of 300,000 of the Chinese made bracelets. The previous record fine of $600,000 was paid by Winco Fireworks in 2005 for importing dangerous fireworks from China. The bracelets were provided as free gifts by Reebok International Ltd. with the purchase of various styles of children’s footwear. In March 2006, the company learned that a four-year-old boy from Minneapolis died after swallowing the bracelet’s heart-shaped pendant. There were no other deaths or injuries reported, according to the CPSC. Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord said in a release: “This civil penalty sends a clear message that the CPSC will not allow companies to put children’s safety at risk.”
The Canton, Massachusetts-based company issued a notice in April 2006 that said it was recalling about 510,000 pendants that were distributed worldwide beginning in May 2004. While the Reebok recall was announced two years ago, problems with Chinese exports continued in 2007. There were a number of high-profile recalls of potentially deadly products made in China last year including toothpaste, other toys tainted with lead, and pet food that contained a toxic chemical. Adidas AG acquired Reebok in 2006 in a $3.8 billion deal that helped the German company expand in the U.S. to better compete with Nike Inc. and Puma AG.
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