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Hazardous Paint, Magnets Ignite Massive Toy Recalls

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[Photo of Barbie doll]Parents worldwide were horrified when news broke out that some toys, which were supposed to entertain kids and step up their learning skills, could instead cause some serious health problems.

Fisher-Price Inc., one of the most trusted toy brands, voluntarily recalled nearly a million toys at the start of August for violating lead-paint standards set by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The commission states paints should have no more than 0.06% lead content.

The lead content in painted toys endangers children because the toxic substance may cause brain damage, a slowdown in mental and physical growth, and trigger behavior and learning problems.

The recalled Fisher-Price toys, which were made in China, feature popular Sesame Street and Nickelodeon characters, such as Big Bird, Elmo, Ernie, Dora the Explorer, and Go Diego Go.

The manufacturers themselves discovered the problem and immediately reported it to the CPSC. They have since vowed to enforce more stringent safety standards. These stricter measures led to the discovery of a range of other hazardous toys.

Two weeks after the voluntary recall by Fisher-Price, parent company Mattel Inc. recalled about 253,000 units of Pixar’s “Sarge” die-cast toy cars for the same reason.

Attract Me Not

Around the same time, millions of Polly Pocket play sets, Barbie and Tanner accessories, Doggie Day Care play sets, Batman, and Shonen Jump’s One Piece action figures were all found to have tiny magnets — health hazards that kids could swallow.

Mattel’s advisory says that if these magnets attract each other inside the body, they may block or even puncture holes on the intestines.

Another recall was made in September when Mattel pulled out hundreds of thousands worth of GeoTrax Locomotive, Barbie Accessory sets, and Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys from the market, also due to excessive amounts of lead in the surface paint.

Both Mattel and concerned parents must be heaving a sigh of relief that no incidents have as yet been reported of children being poisoned by these leaded toys. But the same can’t be said about toys with hazardous magnets.

The CPSC has already received reports of incidents involving Polly Pocket play sets, where detaching magnets caused three children to undergo surgery due to intestinal holes. This on top of more than 500 reports saying the toys’ magnets had come loose.

Meanwhile, the Batman and Shonen Jump action figures’ loose magnets registered 21 incident reports, including a case of a three-year-old boy who was found with a magnet in his mouth. The magnet, fortunately, was found before the boy swallowed it. Barbie and Tanner toys also figured in three incident reports, while the Doggie Daycare toys had two reports of magnets that came loose.

Damage Control

Mattel responded with a series of actions to alleviate the fears of concerned parents. Mattel Inc.

Chairman and CEO Robert Eckert dropped the errant subcontractors whom he blames for not sticking to the company’s strict standards.

Since the spate of product pullouts, the company also intensified their quality control procedures three ways: by testing all their paint, conducting more unannounced inspections at every production stage, and intensified testing of every production run before products reach store shelves. Mattel assured the public that all products for release during the upcoming holiday season will be safe and of the highest quality.

The company will be adjusting their financial reports to reflect increased costs incurred last September due to chemical testings and recall shipping. Mattel chief financial officer Kevin Farr said they expect costs to be less than the $US28.8 million the company incurred during the two previous pullouts, which occurred between August and September.

It isn’t the first time the toy giant has had to pull their products off shelves. In 1998, Mattel recalled millions of battery-powered Power Wheels kiddie cars because of a defective battery connector. The connector was prone to overheating and causing fires. CPSC and Mattel received hundreds of reports including children suffering from minor burns, bruises, scratches or bumps, vehicles not stopping, and the toy bursting into flames.

print ed: 11/07


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