Firm Fined Over Lead-Tainted Thomas and Friends, Other Toys

Schylling Associates has been fined and is required to pay a $200,000 civil penalty for violation of the lead paint ban and failure to report lead tainted toys, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just announced.

Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Massachusetts has agreed to pay the civil penalty; the Commission has provisionally accepted the penalty settlement. The settlement resolves staff allegations that the company violated the federal lead paint ban regarding toys with surface paints containing lead above the 600 parts per million (ppm) legal limit applicable at the time, and failed to immediately report to CPSC information about the non-compliant toys.

In 1978, a federal ban was established prohibiting toys and other children’s articles from containing more than 600 ppm, by weight, in paints or surface coatings. The regulatory limit was reduced to 90 ppm on August 14, 2009, as a result of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008.

The settlement resolves the following allegations:

• Schylling imported up to 66,000 units of non-compliant spinning top toys with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, and Circus graphics between June 2001 and June 2002, distributing to its retail business customers for sale to consumers.

• Schylling imported as many as 10,200 units of non-compliant tin pail toys with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, and Primary Colors graphics from late January 2002 through March 2002, distributing about 4,700 to its retail customers for sale to consumers.

• Schylling imported as many as 3,600 units of non-compliant Winnie-the-Pooh style spinning top toys between April and May 2003, distributing them to its retail customers for sale to consumers.

Although it eventually reported these situations to the CPSC in 2007, Schylling knew or should have known by 2002 that most of the toys did not comply with the lead paint ban, and failed to report this information to the government in a timely manner. Instead of notifying CPSC immediately, in 2002, Schylling conducted a unilateral recall of the distributed pails by seeking their return from affected retail business customers.

The CPSC said that within weeks of being notified of each of these violations in 2007, CPSC announced the firm’s voluntary recall of the products first in August (see the notification at: and for additional toys in November (see the notification at: of that year.

“Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have a legal obligation to ensure that no banned products are introduced into or distributed in the U.S. marketplace, and to inform CPSC as soon as they become aware of information that must be reported under our laws. We will continue to penalize companies that do not follow these basic requirements,” said CPSC Chairman, Inez Tenenbaum. In agreeing to the settlement, Schylling denies that it violated federal law, as alleged by CPSC staff.

Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects. In children and fetuses, lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. Experts agree that there is no safe level of lead.

We have long written about the dangers from lead poisoning and have also long stressed that, once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune, particularly the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond. Most recently we wrote that a study revealed that childhood exposure to lead can lead to permanent brain damage.

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