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Major Manufacturers Agree to Reduce Amount of Lead in Door Keys Under Settlement of Proposition 65 Lawsuit

Friday, April 27, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SAN FRANCISCO) – A dozen major manufacturers of brass door keys have agreed to reduce the amount of lead in their products by up to 40 percent under a settlement reached in the Proposition 65 lawsuit brought by Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation.

Approved today by the San Francisco Superior Court, the settlement resolves a complaint filed in August and October of 1999 under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The voter-passed law requires that consumers be given clear and reasonable warning of exposure to significant amounts of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Lead is subject to the law because it can interfere with the adult reproductive system and harm the developing fetus. It also can cause neurological problems in children.

Standard brass keys are made with alloys containing up to 2.5% lead, small amounts of which rub off when the keys are handled. Exposure of children to lead has been a concern since youngsters may be given keys to play with and allowed to place the keys in their mouth.

The settlement was reached with Ilco Unican Corp., Master Lock Co., Schlage Lock Company, Kwikset Corporation, Best Lock Corporation, Arrow Lock Manufacturing Company, Weiser Lock Corporation, Jet Hardware Mfg. Co., Chicago Lock Company, Olympus Lock, Medeco Security Locks, and American Lock Co. Another defendant, Dexter Co., was removed from the lawsuit after it stopped making brass keys.

Most common keys are made from brass that contains 1.5% to 2.5% lead, but the defendants agreed to no longer make keys with more than 1.5% lead. Some keys are made from nickel-silver, or plated with nickel-silver, and do not give off significant amounts of lead. Those keys are not affected by the settlement.

In addition, the defendants will pay $30,000 to the Public Health Institute to advise pediatricians, child care providers, and others about the importance of not letting children play with keys, because of the lead hazard they pose. They also will pay $110,000 in reimbursement of the Attorney General's and Mateel's fees and costs in bringing the actions.

The suits, which were heard together by the court, are People v. Ilco Unican Corp., et a. (No. 307102) and Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation v. Ilco Unican Corp., et al. (No. 305765).

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