Massive toy recall startles worried parents

Davina Perera ('10)/ Eastside World Issues Editor

toysbad.jpgThe U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced another recall for the world’s largest toy company, Mattel Inc. As of August 14, about 19 million toys have been recalled worldwide.    

“The company has ordered that all products be pulled off retail shelves,” said acting chairwoman of the safety commission Nancy Nord to CNN. 

These toys, manufactured in China, may be coated with toxic lead paint or may contain tiny detachable magnets which are dangerous to children. Eighty percent of the world’s toys are produced in China. 

According to Chinese media, the boss of one manufacturing company hanged himself after a recall regarding toys containing excessive levels of toxic lead. This was an earlier recall from August 2 for 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys for preschoolers and infants. 

Lead poisoning, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, can result from eating, breathing or swallowing too much of the substance, and its possible effects on children include developmental delays, brain and nervous system damages and even behavioral problems such as ADHD. Not to mention, improper disposal of the lead-based paints is also harmful to the environment.

And the biggest issue for adults who are concerned about the safety of their kids is just that: how to get rid of these hazardous playthings. 

Mattel said it is still working on a responsible approach to disposing of the toys. Their website offers to send a brochure to help consumers identify the affected product and send a pre-paid merchandise return label for sending the product back, although there are more steps involved in the process. 

Even though returning the product is an option, parents who want to get these toys out of their children’s hands as quickly as possible are very likely to resort to trashing the toys, which will then end up in landfills and may pollute groundwater because of the toxic paints. 

“I’m disappointed, I’m upset, but I can ensure your viewers that we are doing everything we can about the situation,” said Mattel CEO Bob Eckert to CNN. “Every production batch of toys is being tested, and we’ll continue to enforce the highest quality standards in the industry.” 

Eckert said that Mattel is already making their toys safer by changing its method for attaching magnets to its toys. 

Magnets, which were used in toys like Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, have already caused problems in past years. By November 21, 2006, close to 2.5 million Polly Pocket play sets had been recalled. Before then, there had been over 400 reports that the magnets used for these dolls came loose and three serious reports of children swallowing the magnets. 

When both magnets are consumed, they attract each other through human tissue, causing perforations that require intestinal surgery. In 2005, this was the case for one seven-year-old Indianapolis girl who placed the magnets between her lips to free her hands while changing the accessories of her Polly Pocket doll. After a 40,000 dollar operation, the magnets were found – connected – through a thin piece of tissue. All three children involved in serious reports, according to the CPSC’s website, required surgery. 

According to Nord, the Chinese manufacturers are coming to Washington, D.C. this fall for product safety training sessions to help prevent future toy problems. But as it turns out, Chinese toys are only one issue among many others. 

“Made in China” labels mark roughly one-quarter of all Chinese exports, some of which have resulted in negative effects worldwide. Chemical additives in pet foods have resulted in some deaths, and toxic ingredients were found in exported products like Chinese toothpaste as well as in fish. The deaths of Panama patients were blamed on a Chinese cough syrup with improperly labeled chemicals. Information on many more hazardous products, not including toys, can be found on the CPSC’s website.

“Our long record of safety at Mattel is why we’re one of the most trusted names with parents,” Eckert wrote in a full-page ad found in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. “And I am confident that the actions we are taking now will maintain that trust.”