The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission announced that it has hit Mattel, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Fischer-Price with the third largest civil penalty in CPSC history for importing and selling toys containing illegal amounts of lead. The toy manufacturers agreed to pay the $2.3 million penalty, which was the highest of its kind for violations involving the importation or distribution of a regulated product.
CPSC staff alleged that Mattel of El Segundo, Calif., and Fischer-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., knowingly imported and sold children’s toys with paint and other surface coatings containing unacceptable levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. spends $43.4 billion annually in costs related to the treatment of all pediatric environmental diseases, with lead poisoning occurring in childhood representing the vast majority.
Although the dangers of lead have been largely known for millennia, the federal government didn’t ban high levels of lead in common consumer products until 1978. The U.S. prohibited toys and other children’s items from containing more than 0.06 percent lead by weight.
In 2007, the CPSC found that approximately 95 toy products manufactured by Mattel contained excessive amounts of lead. Nearly one million of the individual Mattel toys entered the U.S. market from China between September 2006 and August 2007. A recall in late summer of 2007 included numerous Barbie accessory toys and “Sarge” toy cars.
Fisher-Price imported over a million non-compliant toys between July 2006 and August 2007. Recalls from August 2007 to October 2007 included a multitude of licensed character toys, Bongo Band, GEOTRAX locomotive, and Go Diego Go Rescue Boat toys.
“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,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Thomas Moore.
“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.”