Mattel extended its recalls of Chinese-made toys to 18.2 million, including popular Barbie, Polly Pocket and Cars movie items, and warned that more could be ordered off store shelves because of lead paint and tiny magnets that could be swallowed.
Tuesday's recalls came nearly two weeks after Mattel Inc, the United States' largest toy-maker, recalled 1.5 million Fisher-Price infant toys worldwide, which were also made in China, because of possible lead-paint hazards for children.
The government warned parents to make sure children are not playing with any of the recalled toys.
Nancy A. Nord, acting Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman, said no injuries had been reported with any of the products involved in Tuesday's recalls. She said the recalls were intentionally broad to prevent injuries.
One child died after swallowing toy
Several injuries had been reported in an earlier Polly Pocket recall last November. At least one US child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys, the government said.
Mattel's worldwide recall involved 436 000 die cast ‘Sarge’ cars related to the character from the movie Cars because they contained lead paint.
It also extended a November 2006 recall of toys containing magnets that can be swallowed by children; they included Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures.
That recall now encompasses 18.2 million magnetic toys worldwide (9.5 million in the US).
Recall of magnet toys
The recall includes about 9.3 million play sets that contain small, powerful magnets. Among the toys are Polly Pocket dolls and Barbie and Tanner play sets, along with Batman and OnePiece Triple Slash Zolo Roronoa action figures, and Doggie Day Care.
Many of the magnetic toys are older and may have been purchased as early as 2003.
"Another week, another recall of Chinese-made toys," said Senator Dick Durbin, who suggested detaining and inspecting all Chinese toy imports for lead paint.
"We can't wait any longer for China to crack down on its lax safety standards. This needs to stop now before more children and more families are put at risk."
Calls for federal regulators
Representative Mike Ferguson said companies whose toys are made in China need to be sure their products meet US safety standards. "If they don't, I believe Congress must give federal regulators the authority to ensure that our kids' toys won't actually harm them," he said.
In a conference call with reporters, Mattel chief executive Bob Eckert said the company is increasing its oversight and testing in its production processes. As a result, he noted, more recalls may occur.
"There is no guarantee that we will not be here again and have more recalls," Eckert said. "We are testing at a very high level here."
In full-page ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and
USA Today on Tuesday, Mattel said it has "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."
Recalls a blow to toy industry
Tuesday's recalls were the latest blows to the nation's toy industry, which relies on China for about 80 percent of toys sold in the United States.
On August 2, Mattel recalled about 1.5 million Chinese-made Fisher-Price toys - including characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo - that contain lead paint.
In June, about 1.5 million Thomas and Friends wooden railway toys, imported from China and distributed by the RC2 Corp were recalled because of lead paint.
Lead is toxic if ingested by young children. Under current regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
"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."
Replacement products offered
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 Pocket play sets November 21, 2006, 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.
Mattel officials said they became aware in late July of potential problems at factories in China and began investigating. While testing to determine which products might be affected, the company alerted the CPSC, Eckert said.
The Mattel executive said the decision to move forward with a recall was made at the end of last week. When The Associated Press learned late Monday that another Mattel recall was in the works and contacted the CPSC, a spokesman declined to comment.
Information hotline considered
CPSC spokesman, Scott Wolfson, said the time between this decision and the announcement was spent determining the scope and exact nature of the problem, as well as negotiating with the company on the remedy for the recall, the logistics of an information hotline and a Web presence for recall information.
He said these logistical considerations are necessary to "ensure that at the point of CPSC's announcement, the consumer will have those tools and they will know what the next steps are."
Days after the August 2 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. –(SAPA)
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