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Mattel Reaches Settlement Over Lead-Tainted Toys

December 15, 2008

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Monday that 39 states had reached a $12 million settlement with Mattel Inc. over lead-tainted toys that resulted in last year’s health scare.

The settlement follows a series of scandals involving Chinese manufacturers, and comes during the peak U.S. holiday shopping season. 

Last year Mattel recalled more than 18 million toys made in China because of dangers related to lead paint and magnets.  Small magnets, if swallowed by children, can damage their digestive tracts, while ingestion of lead paint can result in brain damage or even death.

The states will use the money to educate consumers on the threats posed by lead paint, and to test children for lead exposure.

“We had been lulled into a sense of security that the lead paint issue was behind us,” Coakley told a press conference.

“Both the federal and state governments need to be vigilant to be sure that we do not have increased risk to our children.”

The toys in question included products with the Barbie, Dora the Explorer and Cars characters.  None remain on the market, and no children are believed to have been hurt by the lead toys.

Beginning in August 2009, the U.S. is lowering the permitted level of surface lead paint in toys by 85 percent.  However, Mattel, the world’s largest toymaker, has agreed to meet that standard by November 30.

“Mattel has demonstrated its commitment to children’s safety by pledging to meet standards even more stringent than those currently required,” said Mattel spokesman Jules Andres in a statement.

“Mattel also has taken steps that go beyond current requirements to give parents greater confidence that the Mattel toys that they buy this holiday season will be the safest ever.”

China is a major supplier of toys, food and clothing to much of the world. The nation’s manufacturers have faced harsh criticism lately, most   recently due to thousands of people who fell ill from consuming milk powder tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics. Chinese-made toothpaste, pet food and lipstick have also been found to contain dangerous chemicals.

Image Courtesy UPI

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