Almost 9 Million Toys Recalled

(AP) Toy-making giant Mattel Inc. issued recalls Tuesday for millions of Chinese-made toys that contain magnets that can be swallowed by children or could have lead paint.

The recall includes 7.3 million play sets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 1.5 million die cast cars that contain lead paint.

The Polly Pocket and Batman recalls were announced on the company's Web site. The recall of lead-painted cars was announced at a mid-morning news conference by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington.

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

"The scope of these recalls is intentionally large to prevent any injuries from occurring," she told the news conference.

It was the latest blow to the toy industry, which has had a string of recalled products from China, ranging from faulty tires to tainted toothpaste. With more than 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are nervous that shoppers will shy away from their products.

On Aug. 1, Mattel's Fisher-Price division announced the worldwide recall of 1.5 million Chinese-made preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo. About 967,000 of those toys were sold in the United States between May and August.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, Calif., apologized to customers for that recall and said the move would cut pretax operating income by $30 million. Fisher-Price "fast-tracked" the recall, which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the tainted toys before they reached store shelves.

In documents filed Aug. 3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mattel noted that additional information became available in July on "other smaller product recalls and similar charges were recorded." Those recalls involved design problems, according to company officials questioned last week.

Mattel officials have maintained that 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 launched 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 Monday.

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

After Mattel announced the recall of its Fisher-Price toys, it launched a full-scale investigation into all of its factories in China, sending a team headed by Jim Walter, Mattel senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, to meet with suppliers there. Such stepped up controls could have led to the latest lead paint discovery, according to one source who wanted to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The toy industry has been jolted by a series of recalls this year, but the Fisher-Price recall is considered the most damaging to the industry's credibility because it involved the largest toy maker and involved popular Nickelodeon and Sesame Street characters.

In June, toy maker RC2 Corp. voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. The company said that the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead, affecting 26 components and 23 retailers.

In July, Hasbro Inc. recalled Chinese-made Easy Bake ovens, marking the second time the iconic toy had been recalled this year.

Before this month, Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel had never before recalled toys because of lead paint.

© MMVII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For a list of the toys and how you can get your refund, call 888-597-6597 or go to
http://service.mattel.com/us/recall.asp.


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