Halloween is supposed to be about harmless scares and fun, but the holiday took a truly frightening turn when Federal inspectors recently seized more than a thousand Chinese-made costumes for lead contamination.

Inspectors intercepted a shipment of almost 1,400 female pirate costumes bound for a Seattle-area distributor and discovered high levels of lead—11 times the legal limit—in the buttons and trim. The shipment was set aside for testing in mid-September following a previous violation by the manufacturer. The dangerously high levels of lead were confirmed approximately a week ago, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mike Milne.

"We target shipments for a variety of reasons," said Milne. "It could be the history of the shipper, the manufacturer. It could be the history of the importer, or it could be the commodity itself that we’ve had prior violations with."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, who tested the costumes, said health problems could have occurred if the lead-contaminated parts came in contact with children's mouths. Lead is an extremely toxic substance and can cause major developmental issues in children, even at low levels and when symptoms don't immediately present themselves.

"We consider any kind of a children’s product that has violative levels of lead to be significant," said Craig Mabie, a Seattle-based commission compliance investigator. "The real emphasis here is that we’re being proactive by looking at this stuff at port of entry before it has a chance to be distributed to commerce."

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