Mattel Toy Recall Increases Calls for Greater Scrutiny of Chinese Imports

In the wake of the Mattel toy recall, two US senators are asking the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to begin a “detain and test” program for all toys imported from China. All of the toys recalled by Mattel were imported from China, as were many toys involved in other recalls this year.

On August 15, Mattel recalled more than 9 million toys for magnet and lead paint hazards. The recall applied to Polly Pocket, Barbie, Batman and Doggie Day Care toys that contained small magnets that can cause serious injury to children if swallowed. When more than one of the powerful magnet is swallowed, they can become attracted to each other through the walls of the intestinal track, causing intestinal perforations, obstructions and other dangerous injuries. On the same day, the company recalled 253,000 die cast metal toy cars because they were made with lead paint. It was Mattel’s second such recall in as many weeks. On August 1, Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, recalled more than a million toys for a lead paint hazard. All of the recalled toys were made in China.

Other toys made in China have also been recalled. Just last week, children’s jewelry and Spongebob Squarepants notebooks and journals were recalled for a lead paint hazard. Earlier this year, the RC2 Company recalled millions of Chinese Thomas the Tank Engine toy trains for the same reason

And recalls of Chinese products have not been limited to toys. Tires, pet food, toothpaste and seafood from that country have all been found to be defective. In recent months, the Chinese government has passed new laws and cracked down on factories in an effort to improve its manufacturing reputation. But most experts agree that it could be years before the Chinese are able to implement an effective manufacturing inspection and safety system.

Unwilling to wait for the Chinese to deal with their manufacturing issues, Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) have urged the CPSC to launch an inspection program against dangerous toys in time for the holiday shopping season. At a news conference yesterday, Senator Durbin said such a program would help restore the confidence of American parents that toys are safe. “A family going inside a toy store shouldn’t have to play Chinese roulette to try to guess what toys are safe for their kids,” Durbin insisted.

The recent parade of toy recalls has brought calls for more inspections from several members of congress. Many have expressed concern that the CPSC does not have the resources to police the toy industry. In the last two decades, the CPSC staff has dwindled from 900 to 400, and its budget stands at only $62 million annually. Durbin, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said that congress could take legislative action to strengthen the CPSC. He said congress would soon discuss increasing the Commission’s budget and mandating comprehensive toy inspections.

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