Thursday, August 16, 2007

Help, Mattel is Recalling my Batmans!

Early this month Mattel is recalling nearly one million toys in United States due to use of lead paint; all affected products were made in factories in China; more than 300,000 have already been purchased by consumers. Then the company recalled other toys with tiny magnets because these magnets can be easily dislodged and swallowed by young children.

Sarah Corey from Reuters reports

In the United States, the recall includes 7.3 million Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets, 1 million Doggie Day Care magnetic toys, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner magnetic toys, and 345,000 Batman and One Piece play sets.

About 253,000 Pixar Sarge die-cast toy cars with lead paint were also recalled. Lead has been linked to health problems in children, including brain damage.

Earlier this month Mattel's Fisher-Price unit recalled about 1.5 million preschool toys made by China-based contract manufacturer Lida Toy Co. because the paint on the toys might contain excessive amounts of lead. The global recall included products based on popular preschool characters from "Sesame Street" and "Dora the Explorer."

This is toymaker's 17th recall in 10 years. A list of products since 1998 is here.

While Mattel is blaming the China factory and the factory is looking for a scapegoat, I fail to understand how matter can get so out of hand. There must have been some sort of quality control. One can blame China for using lead paint but the small magnet is obviously a design fault. It is astonishing that one of the world’s largest toys making company is so careless about children’s safety. After all, with a few examples, it is children who will be playing with their toys.

The tiny magnets are easily swallowed when dislodged. To date, three kids have been known to swallow it. The magnets by themselves are harmless and will be excreted out eventually. The fear is that more than one magnet is swallowed and they stick together causing intestinal obstruction. In such a scenario, the child will be vomiting continuously and may have a distended abdomen.

The lead in the paint that coats the toys is more worrying. Lead poisoning in children has been a severe health hazard in the past when lead was a standard component in paint. Children became sick, pale (anemic) and became brain damaged when they swallow the paint flaks (children will swallow almost anything).

The American Academy of Family Physicians writes

High levels of lead in the body can cause problems with the brain, kidneys and bone marrow (the soft tissue inside bones). Symptoms of high lead levels can include belly pain, headaches, vomiting, confusion, muscle weakness, seizures, hair loss and anemia (a low red blood cell count).

Lower levels of lead in the body can also cause problems, like trouble paying attention, behavior problems, learning difficulties and a fall in the IQ of young children.

Read more here. For a more technical report on lead poisoning, read here.

The only bright side of this latest problem with Mattel toys is that it highlights the risk of our children getting lead poisoning.
We must always be vigilant in the type of toys we buy for our children. It is sad that we can no longer trust brand names like Mattel, Fisher-Price, and Hot Wheels anymore.

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