- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) Toy-making giant Mattel Inc. issued recalls today for about 9 million Chinese-made toys that contain magnets children can swallow or that 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 said.

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 in November.

In a full-page ad today in some U.S. newspapers, Mattel 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.”

Today’s recall was the second 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. Those were under the Fisher-Price brand and included such popular characters as Elmo, Big Bird and Dora the Explorer.

This is 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.

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

Toys recalled today include 253,000 Sarge cars from the movie “Cars” because the surface paint could contain lead levels in excess of federal standard. The 2[1/2]-inch-long, 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 were 345,000 Batman and One Piece action figures, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets and 1 million Doggie Day Care play sets.

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

Mattel discovered the latest problem while it was investigating the earlier recall, Ms. Nord said.

Mattel officials said 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 started 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 yesterday.

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

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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