- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Now that toy companies have issued recalls for millions of Chinese-made toys tainted with lead or are otherwise hazardous to children, they are scrambling to figure out what to do with them.

Mattel Inc., which on Tuesday recalled about 19 million toys worldwide, said it was working on a “responsible approach” but could not provide details.

Amid the lack of clarity, many parents are confused about how to dispose of the toys. That may mean many of them will end up in the trash and eventually in landfills, where they could leach toxins into groundwater.

All parents know at this point is that they must get them out of their children’s toy chests.

In Nashville, Tenn., Courtney Wilson discovered she had some recalled Polly Pocket dolls with magnets from Mattel, and has decided to throw them out. Meanwhile, another parent, Jennifer Mulligan of Franklin, Tenn., is making a different choice: She plans to take the recalled dolls back to the store.

Mrs. Mulligan said her 6-year-old daughter “probably has about every Polly Pockets ever made.”

She added: “If we did have an affected toy, I’d see it as lesson for her. … If there was something wrong with the toy, it’s up to the store to replace it with another toy.”

The Mattel recall is the latest in a number of recalls involving more than 10 million toys since June in the U.S. alone.

The most alarming has been the recall of toys coated with lead-based paint. Children who ingest the paint could suffer brain damage, and improper disposal of lead-based paint could damage the environment.

Mattel’s recalls cover several hundred thousand “Sarge” vehicles and almost a million toys from its Fisher-Price line, including the “Sesame Street” and “Nickelodeon” characters.

Its recalls follow the recall of 1.5 million items from RC2 Corp.’s Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toy line, announced in June.

Many retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are offering the option of returning the recalled toys to stores where they will be sent back to the makers, but they prefer that shoppers send them back to manufacturers in packaging that the maker provides in exchange for a refund.

“Certainly, there is a significant expense to manage a recall,” said Eric Johnson, professor of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. “This is a big headache.”

Lead-painted toys fall under the category of products that should be destroyed or properly disposed of, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But plenty of other toys — like the millions of ones including Batman and Polly Pockets recalled this week by Mattel because of hazardous magnets — don’t have to be destroyed.

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