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August 1, 2007

Get The Hell Away From My Kid, Diego! Get The Hell Away! Mattel/Fisher-Price Recalls 1MM Toys For Lead Paint Contamination

lead_dora.jpgMaybe it would be easier if all the companies left who don't sell hyper-popular licensed character toys contaminated with lead paint could please raise your hand? Anyone?

Fisher-Price, whose Made in America toys we all gnawed on as children, has issued a recal for 83 different toys--nearly 1 million units sold between May and August 2007 [hey, that's today!]--which have dangerous levels of lead. Check the Mattel website for specifics, then get any affected toys away from kids, pronto. They're especially susceptible to neurological injuries and even death from lead poisoning.

Holy smokes, check out the range of products: big and small, cheap and expensive, Dora, Diego, Big Bird, Elmo [lots of Elmo]. The one thing they have in common, though, is paint-on-molded-plastic.

CNN quotes Fisher-Price General Manager David Allmark as saying the recall announcement was

"fast-tracked," which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the toys before they even made it to store shelves. [ed: Wait, so there were originally 3 million contaminated toys, and 1/3 of them sold? Or 1mm toys, with only 1/3 of them sold?

[update: the WP reports 1.5mm total, 1mm in the US, 300,000 on shelves or sold. Also, the lead was discovered by a EU retailer's own, independent testing.]

In negotiating details of the recall, Fisher-Price and the government agreed to withhold details from the public until Thursday to give stores time to get suspect toys off shelves and Fisher-Price time to get its recall hot line up and running.

lead_elmo.jpgInteresting. Coincidentally, it also gave Mattel and Fisher-Price time to decide not to kidnap and detain the NY Times Business reporter who came a'calling at their factories in China. Instead, the company cooperated fully, and helped fill the front page story last week with glowing quotes about how, "Mattel is the gold standard,” and so much more careful and rigorous and experienced than all those other Chinese-made toy companies. *cough Thomas cough*

Nicely played, Mattel publicists. I smell a business school case study in the making.

Fisher-Price Toys with Lead Paint Hazard Recall
Fisher-Price recalls toys--Big Bird, Elmo, Dora--for lead [cnn.com]
Uh, cheaply and with lead paint, just like everybody else?: Toymaking In China, Mattel's Way [nytimes]
Previously: NYT Reporter Detained at Thomas The Tank Engine Factory
Previous lead paint disasters: Rubbernecking the Thomas Train Wreck

posted August 1, 2007 9:27 PM | add to del.icio.us | digg this


A million products got through? That's a crack QC program right there.

And is anyone else thinking maybe it's time for China to actually ban lead paint? It was banned in Europe in the freaking 1920s, and in the US in the 70s. It's not exactly a recent revelation that it's really bad for you.

This is sort of the trickle down effect when major retailers (Wal Mart) squeeze their suppliers' margins down to nothing. The distributor (Mattel) passes the squeeze on down to the factory (some poor bastard in Dong Guan). Those guys were barely making 5% already, so the only way they can make any money at all now is to save 2 cents a gallon on paint by using lead dryers. Keep in mind that these decisions, decisions that affect the health and well being of children, are mostly being made by some mid level production manager who spends all his spare time chainsmoking and drinking Johnny Walker with a bar girl in some dreary KTV joint.

posted by: Scott at August 1, 2007 11:40 PM

I love the idea of China banning lead paint... the only downside I see is they'd probably start putting all the extra lead they have left over in toothpaste or something.

We just squeaked by... my mom gave the kid the bedroom addition to Dora's house last year, and that seems to be the one thing from that line not on the list. Still, you have to wonder; I wonder if my daughter will think it's weird if I only let her play with that house after putting on gloves and a respirator mask?

posted by: cam c. at August 2, 2007 3:14 AM

Yeah... we have about every Diego toy on there. One thing that needs to be made clear before every parent in America starts freaking out (like I almost did) is that the only products affected are ones sold between May 1st 2007 and right now.
*you might want to add that to your post*

Only one of our toys was actually bought in that timeframe.

I have a feeling that quite a few of those toys are still in limbo on the store shelves and they will have dodged a bit of a bullet. But good freaking grief. I'm checking everything from now on and if it's made in china it's staying on the da*n shelf!

posted by: Rachel K. at August 2, 2007 11:03 AM

Sorry, in my ignorance I missed that you did indeed already have that date in your post :O)

[no problem. I went ahead and emphasized it as an unnecessary freakout management mechanism -ed.]

posted by: Rachel K. at August 2, 2007 11:05 AM

Hi Greg,

If anyone wants to take action around this latest recall, we created a group and have a petition up on The Motherhood:



posted by: cooper munroe at August 2, 2007 11:45 AM

Rachel K - good luck with the not buying from china effort. Check your kids toys. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts they are all - with very few if any exceptions - made in China. That cool wooden puzzle from the well reputed German toy company? China. The "hand made" pull toy? China.
We had a pretty good discussion on this a few weeks ago here - http://daddytypes.com/2007/07/12/q_any_conscientious_toy_companies_out_there.php
Worth checking out...

posted by: shawna at August 2, 2007 5:45 PM

Boy, our affection for Plan Toys is looking pretty prescient right now, not to mention the "no TV" plan. Although self-satisfaction about lead paint didn't keep me from leaving a big puddle on the kitchen floor so my kid slipped and sliced his lip open.

posted by: dorothy at August 2, 2007 7:01 PM

I'm sure you saw this (or maybe not if it just hit the news), but I just fired up the computer at the lounge in Hong Kong on my way to Vietnam, and saw that the head of the factory that made these recalled products has killed himself. The paint was supplied by a company owned by his friend.


posted by: Scott at August 13, 2007 5:00 AM

Why is it that everyone seems to be trusting the dates? We only have the Talking Dora House (from last year), but if it has been made in the same factory all this time and the color cohesion appears to be the same... am I just supposed to believe that lead was only introduced into all of these factory some random day in May? I'm looking for a reason to believe I shouldn't throw away my daughters favorite toy and I'm just not buying it! too late, but you know what I mean. Does anyone have any proof that the toys before May are all miraculously untouched? Sorry for the freak-out, but that's why they would tell us that whether it's true or not. Maybe we need to freak out.

[I assume the dates come from production records that show when the tainted paint subcontractor got involved. I'd also assume that they'd test various batches and production runs to isolate the lead problem, which means that other batches did, in fact, test negative. But these are both assumptions, that's all. -ed.]

posted by: Amanda at September 14, 2007 7:16 PM
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