Import of Toys with Lead Paint Results in $2.3M Fine for Mattel, Fisher-Price

Mattel, Inc. and their wholly owned subsidiary, Fisher-Price, Inc., have been ordered to pay $2.3 million in fines for importing about two million Chinese-made toys with lead paint levels that violated federal law.

The fines were announced on Friday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), representing the third highest fine in the agency’s history.

In August and September 2007, the toys from China were pulled from shelves in after testing discovered that they broke the U.S. legal limit on the amount of lead allowed in paint. Many of the toys were from lines of popular characters such as Barbie and Go Diego Go.

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The recalls came at a high point of consumer concern over products being shipped from China. In March of that year, contaminated pet food imported from China was found to contain melamine, which was linked to as many as 3,600 pet deaths.

Public outrage following the toy recall led to Congress increasing fines for lead paint violations, stricter bans on the use of lead, and strengthening the CPSC’s ability to enforce regulations with additional funding and manpower.

“These highly publicized toy recalls helped spur Congressional action last year to strengthen CPSC and make even stricter the ban on lead paint on toys,” CPSC Acting Chairman Thomas Moore said in a statement released by the agency June 5, 2009. “This penalty should serve notice to toy makers that CPSC is committed to the safety of children, to reducing their exposure to lead, and to the implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.”

Restrictions were placed on lead levels in household paint and other consumer products due to the risk of lead paint poisoning, especially in young children where elevated lead blood levels can result in permanent brain damage, seizures, growth and mental retardation and other neurological disorders.

Mattel imported up to 900,000 toys with lead paint levels that violated the federal ban between September 2006 and August 2007. Among the Mattel toys recalled were the “Sarge” car from the movie Cars and numerous Barbie accessory toys.

Fisher-Price imported up to 1.1 million toys with high lead levels between July 2006 and August 2007, including licensed character toys, the Bongo Band, GEOTRAX locomotive and a Go Diego Go Rescue Boat toys.

The toys violated the federal ban restricting lead in paint and surface coatings to under 0.06%. Mattel and Fisher-Price agreed to pay the fine, but deny that they knowingly imported the toys.

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