- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toy giant Mattel yesterday announced that it was recalling more than 18 million Chinese-made toys worldwide for safety reasons, more than half from the U.S., in the latest episode of snowballing problems with Chinese imports.

The company said it was recalling 18.2 million magnetic toys globally, including 9.5 million in the U.S., that were manufactured between January 2002 and Jan. 31, including Polly Pocket, Barbie and Batman dolls, action figures, play sets and accessories that could release “small, powerful magnets.”

It also recalled 253,000 “Sarge” cars from the movie “Cars” in the U.S. because they potentially contain lead paint.

Yesterday’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 Aug. 2, Mattel Inc., the nation’s largest toy-maker, recalled 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys worldwide, which were also made in China, because of possible lead-paint hazards for children.

The company said it may recall more products as it steps up its lead paint and quality-control testing on thousands of toys.

“There could be additional recalls,” Mattel Chief Executive Bob Eckert told reporters. “We are testing at a very high level here.”

Yesterday’s announcement follows earlier problems with Chinese food ingredients, seafood, pet food, toothpaste and all-terrain vehicles.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the problem with the toys is that small magnets inside the toys can come loose or fall out and be swallowed. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation or blockage, which can be fatal.

Nancy A. Nord, acting CPSC chairman, said no injuries had been reported with any of the products involved in yesterday’s recall.

About 2.4 million Polly Pocket play sets were recalled in November, and the CPSC said that since that announcement, the company had received more than 400 reports of magnets coming loose. Prior to the November recall, according to the commission, there had been three reports of serious injuries to children who swallowed more than one magnet.

Mattel said that most of the toys covered by the recall are no longer in stores and that in January, the company started using “enhanced magnet retention systems.”

Mattel voluntarily recalled 63 magnetic toys before this year, including 44 Polly Pocket toys, 11 Doggie Day Care toys, four Batman toys, one One Piece toy and the accessory part of two Barbies.

Mattel’s recall of the “Sarge” die-cast car includes 436,000 toys, including 253,000 in the U.S. The toy was produced by Chinese contractor Early Light Industrial Co. Ltd., which subcontracted painting to vendor Hong Li Da.

Mattel said that although Hong Li Da, also a Chinese company, was supposed to use paint supplied by Early Light, it used paint from another supplier.

Jim Walter, Mattel’s senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, said the company has implemented a system requiring that only paint from certified suppliers be used and requiring every batch of paint to be tested, imposing tighter controls throughout the production process and at vendor facilities and testing every production run of finished toys.

Toy shopper Eva Grygiel of Alexandria said yesterday that she was “very concerned as a mother.” She added that she is returning many of the toys she received during the baby shower for her 9-week-old daughter Amal, and wants to replace them with toys from the U.S. and from her native Poland.

Angela Neeb, who was buying an XBox 360 for her 11-year-old son, Tristan, said “lucky us, made in our own country” when she checked and found it was made in the United States.

Mrs. Neeb, who has four children, said the Chinese safety question has “absolutely” changed the way she shops for toys.

“You know, we’re just a little more cautious of where they’re made, where they come from, what they contain, she said.

She said she had to return a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine toys.

“It’s a little disappointing and unnerving,” she said.

A House Democrat said the recall emphasizes the need for more consumer protection.

Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, a member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that oversees consumer-safety issues, said the CPSC lacks the resources it needs and said he looked forward “to probing the circumstances of this latest recall and working to provide the commission with the authority and additional resources it needs to protect American consumers.”

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