A health scare has been sparked after thousands of children’s face paint sets containing high levels of lead were sold to shops.
Around 7,200 of the Tartan Collection paint pot sets were imported to the UK from a factory in China and sold on to shops – but only 324 have been returned following a product recall by trading standards.
The firm which brought the goods Chelford Ltd, based in Salford, was this week fined £14,000 in court for breaching product safety laws.
Salford City Council, which brought the prosecution, has now warned parents to stay away from the face paints, which contain up to 3.5 per cent lead and can cause damage to the nervous system.
The trading standards investigation found the sets, which were on sale at shops in Salford and Rochdale, include lead which can be absorbed through the skin and cause serious injury.
The £1 sets contain stencils and five pots of face paint in different colours, with the lead found in the yellow pots.
Salford trading standards officers bought a test sample from Pound Paradise and discovered they were toxic.
They demanded the entire batch was taken off the shelves and returned to the company, but of the 7,200, only 324 were recovered after being brought into the UK in January 2011.
It is not known how many painting sets have been bought or used.
Gareth Hollingsworth, senior trading standards officer at Salford City Council, said: “I’m hoping there are not any cases of lead poisoning but these have gone to all four corners of the UK and without having results from hospitals about lead toxicity it is quite hard to comment.”
An expert report by the council said lead toxicity can damage almost every organ and is especially dangerous to young children even at low levels.
The regulations say lead in the paint pots should be around 20 parts per million but analysts found they were at the level of 16,900 parts per million.
The investigation was prompted by health officials in Ireland who had discovered the firm’s paints on sale there contained lead and alerted the UK authorities.
Salford mayor Ian Stewart said: “It’s very worrying, especially at this time of year, that these dangerous items have found their way on to the high street.
“It’s really important that the public are extremely vigilant.”
Chelford Ltd was ordered to pay more than £12,000 in fines and £2,657 in court costs for breaching product safety laws while the firm’s managing director Joel Cope, 39, was also fined £1,200 for putting the public’s health at risk, plus £1,200 court costs.
A second batch of 7,000 of the paints was imported by the firm but the council stepped in and impounded them.
Anyone with the face paint set is asked to contact their local trading standards.