In a big win for consumer health advocates nationwide, three major retailers have agreed to pay almost a half a million dollars to settle a lawsuit that involved the selling of toys with excessive amounts of lead, according to a recent story by the LA Times.

According to the EPA, the effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be severe and can include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans and increased behavioral problems.

In 2007, the California attorney general’s office sued Target Corp., Toys R Us Inc. and Kmart after the retailers were found to have sold toys with unsafe levels of lead paint.

But retailers weren’t the only ones targeted by the attorney general’s office. Toy manufacturers such as Mattel Inc. were also involved in the lawsuit for manufacturing toys that were laden with lead.

"Our enforcement action will serve as a reminder to companies that they have a responsibility to make sure that children aren't exposed to harmful chemicals from their toys," Harrison Pollak, a state deputy attorney general, told the Times. "The settlement provides a remedy for past violations and makes it less likely that there will be future violations of lead standards."

In addition to violating federal safety standards, the retailers and manufacturers also violated California’s own Proposition 65, a state law prohibiting certain toxic substances.

According to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Proposition 65 was intended “to protect California citizens and the State's drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals.”

The ruling is the latest in what is turning out to be a tough year for those found to be manufacturing or selling toxic consumer products.

Last month, Target was hit with a $600,000 penalty for selling toys with high levels of lead, only this time it was the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that brought the lawsuit, according to a recent MNN post.

And, less than a week ago the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a consumer advocacy group, tested and found common Halloween face paints to contain lead and known skin allergens, according to another MNN post.

Concerning the latest lead settlement, Target will pay $210,000, Toys R Us will pay $175,000 and Kmart will pay $69,000, according to the attorney general's office.

A spokeswoman for Target had no comment, while a Toys R Us representative could not be reached. Kmart, on the other hand, said the settlement resolved past concerns and added that the chain's toys meet "all applicable state and federal safety standards."

California slaps Target, Kmart, Toys R Us with lead fine
The three retailers will pay almost a half a million dollars in fines for selling lead-laden toys.