Mattel Recalling More Chinese-Made Toys Over Lead Paint In latest Blow To Toy Industry

By NATASHA METZLER
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Toy-making giant Mattel Inc. issued recalls Tuesday for about 9 million Chinese-made toys that contain magnets children can swallow or which could have lead paint.

The recall includes 7.3 million play sets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 253,000 die cast cars that contain lead paint.

Nancy A. Nord, acting Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman, told a news conference no injuries had been reported with any of the products involved in the new recall.

"The scope of these recalls is intentionally large to prevent any injuries from occurring," she told the news conference.

At least one U.S. child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys, the government said. Several injuries had been reported in an earlier Polly Pocket recall last November.

Mattel, in a full-page ad Tuesday in some U.S. newspapers, said the company was "one of the most trusted names with parents" and was "working extremely hard to address your concerns and continue creating safe, entertaining toys for you and your children."

Tuesday's recall was the latest blow to the toy industry, which has had a string of recalled products from China. With about 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are worried shoppers will shy away from their products.

It was also the second recall involving lead paint for Mattel in two weeks. Earlier this month, consumers were warned about 1.5 million Chinese-made toys that contain lead paint.

"There is no excuse for lead to be found in toys entering this country," Nord said. "It's totally unacceptable and it needs to stop."

Toys recalled Tuesday include 253,000 "Sarge" cars from the movie "Cars," because the surface paint could contain lead levels in excess of federal standard. The 2½-inch, 1-inch high car looks like a military jeep.

Lead is toxic if ingested by young children, and under current regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.

Also recalled Tuesday were 345,000 Batman and "One Piece" action figures, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets and 1 million Doggie Day Care play sets.

In the newspaper ads, presented as a letter to "fellow parents" from Mattel chief executive Bob Eckert, the company said "nothing is more important than the safety of our children."

"We have already taken steps to further ensure the safety of our toys," Eckert said.

Nord said the company has stopped selling the recalled products, instructed retailers to pull them from the shelves and made a production change. Mattel is also offering replacement products.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which negotiated details of Mattel's recalls, reported that in the previous recall of Polly Pockets play sets in Nov. 11, three children had been injured by swallowing more than one magnet. All three suffered intestinal perforations that required surgery.

When more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.

In March 2006, another toy company, Mega Brands Inc., recalled 3.8 million Magnetix magnetic building sets after one child died and four others were seriously injured after swallowing tiny magnets in them.

Two weeks ago, Mattel's Fisher-Price division announced the worldwide recall of 1.5 million Chinese-made preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo. About 967,000 of those toys were sold in the United States between May and August.

Mattel discovered the latest problem while they were investigating the earlier recall, Nord said.

Mattel officials maintained that a European retailer discovered the lead in some of the lead-covered Fisher-Price products in early July. On July 6, the company halted operations at the factory in China that produced the toys and launched an investigation.

Days after the Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys' manufacturer, Lee Der Industrial Co., from exporting products. A Lee Der co-owner, Cheung Shu-hung, committed suicide at a warehouse over the weekend, apparently by hanging himself, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.

Lee Der was under pressure in the global controversy over the safety of Chinese-made products, and it is common for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.

After Mattel announced the recall of its Fisher-Price toys, it launched a full-scale investigation into all of its factories in China.

Before this month, Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel had never recalled toys because of lead paint.

Consumers should call Mattel at 888-597-6597 for information about the recalled toys with magnets, or 800-916-4997 for information about the recalled cars.

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Mattel: http://service.mattel.com/us/recall.asp
Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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