Product Liability

American toy maker settles lead paint violations for $1.5 million

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced yesterday that RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Illinois has agreed to pay a $1.25 million civic penalty for importing toys to the United States that violated the federal lead paint ban. RC2 is the importer and seller of Thomas & Friends ™ Wooden Railway toys.

According to the CPSC announcement, the settlement resolves the agency’s allegations that RC2 and one of its subsidiary companies Learning Curve Brands Inc. knowingly imported and sold various Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway Toys with paints and other surface coatings that contained lead above the legally permissible limit.

The federal government enacted a ban in 1978 on all toys containing more than 0.06 percent lead by weight in paint and other surface coatings. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 reduced the legally permissible amount of lead even further to 0.009 percent, which went into effect on August 14 of this year.

Following investigations, CPSC staff alleged that RC2 failed to take sufficient action to be sure that its toys complied with the federal lead paint restriction of 0.06 percent lead by weight. This failure, according to the CPSC, “lead to the risk of lead poisoning and adverse health effects to children.”

In 2007, RC2 reported that more than two dozen styles of its toy vehicles, buildings, and other train set components contained levels of lead in excess of the 1978 standard. Between June and September of 2007, the company recalled some 1.7 million toys. The massive recall captured the attention of Congress and prompted the new legislation that reduced the legal lead limits.

According to CPSC Chairman and longtime child safety advocate Inez Tenenbaum, “the highly publicized recall of Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway toys was a catalyst for Congressional action aimed at strengthening CPSC and making the lead-in-paint limits under federal law even stricter.”

All of the recalled toys were manufactured in China. Because it is possible that the affected toys may still be found in various homes and for sale by thrift stores and internet merchants, consumers should check the official recall notifications if they believe they own one or more of the recalled toys.