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2 Investigators: Halloween Decorations Could Be Health Hazard

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Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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(CBS) — Halloween is known for kids in costumes and scary decorations, but the 2 Investigators found some decorations that could actually be hazardous to your health. Pam Zekman reports on this Halloween scare.

Halloween decorations are supposed to be scary, but a small, 6-inch tall witch figurine gave a suburban grandmother a real fright. Carol Piorek bought the item from a Burlington Coat Factory in Bloomingdale for her grandaughter.

But after she got the witch home, she noticed a warning label on the back that reads: “Prop. 65 warning: This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.”

The label is part of the California Proposition 65 product warning initiative.

Piorek says she immediately became concerned because she thought, “… that they’re dangerous, they’re toxic, that they should not be for sale.”

Piorek complained to the manager of the Burlington Coat Factory store where she purchased the witch.

“He called me back and said they were pulling everything off the shelves,” said Piorek.

But when she returned to the same store a couple of days later, Piorek says she discovered that nothing had been done and the items with the warning labels were still for sale.

Now Piorek and her daughter-in-law Jenny Piorek are concerned for other families who may buy them.

“If they put that in their mouth,” said Jenny Piorek with her twin boys sitting in her lap, “and they put their fingers in their mouth afterwards, it’s just a scary thought.”

At another Burlington store in Chicago we found another shelf full of similar decorative items with the same warning.

We showed the decorative figures to a local child safety expert familiar with California’s Proposition 65.

“It says you cannot subject children or others to dangerous chemicals or heavy metals and if you do, you need to have these kinds of labels,” said Nancy Cowles of the Kids In Danger advocacy group.

A spokeswoman for Burlington refused to tell CBS 2 who made or distributed the decorations, what chemicals are used to make them or how much of certain chemicals are contained in the products.

Knowing the manufacturer or distributor of the decorations could help determine if the supplier of those decorative items we found at the Burlington stores were among more than a dozen who settled a lawsuit charging them with violating California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65, by not providing warnings about the risks from certain chemicals.including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and formaldehyde.

The case filed by the Chanler Group was settled last October with the manufacturers and distributors agreeing to reformulate the products to ensure they contain less than specified levels of the chemicals.

Burlington says it was not a defendant in the case but as a result of the consent judgment the company asked its vendors to comply with the settlement agreement or provide the warning labels.

We noticed a few were missing their safety labels. All the other identical items had the labels. But the head of Kids in Danger says she does not think those labels give enough information.

“I think that is a problem for consumers because it leaves us without knowing what the hazard is we may be exposed to,” Cowles said.

That’s a criticism the Governor of California is hoping to correct with new legislation.

Burlington declined to be interviewed on camera for this report. But In a written statement Burlington said it is, “committed to ensuring products it sells are safe and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”

The company also said, “it’s not aware of any risk or reported injury from these products and “has no reason to believe that they are not safe.”