From: Diane Bartz, Reuters
Published September 18, 2007 06:40 PM

Recalled Mattel Toys: 200 Times Legal Lead Limit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Toymaker Mattel Inc's recent recalls involved toys that had nearly 200 times the amount of lead in paint as allowed by U.S. law, the company said in a letter released to a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday.

The largest U.S. toymaker recalled millions of Chinese-made toys in August and September due to hazards from small powerful magnets and lead paint. Mattel's Fisher-Price unit recalled about 1.5 million toys because of excessive lead paint on the products based on popular characters from "Sesame Street" and "Dora the Explorer."

"The reported noncompliant lead levels in paint, so far, range from just over the applicable standard to about eleven (11) percent or 110,000 parts per million," Mattel's letter to the U.S. House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer Protection.

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Lead in paint is legally limited to 600 parts per million, or 0.06 percent in the United States. If ingested, lead paint can cause irritability and lethargy. Higher doses can lead to learning disabilities and death.

Dr. Dana Best, a lead expert with Children's National Medical Center, gasped when she saw Mattel's lead figures.

"Wow, that's amazing," she said. "We don't see children die very often any more (from lead poisoning). That's great. But what we are finding is ... harms persist at what used to be considered 'safe' levels."

Retailing giant Target also responded to the committee's request for information. Target said in a letter that it recalled toys sold under its name that had lead levels as high as 21,000 parts per million in some of the paint of the Sunny Patch Safari Children's Chair.

They also found 9,200 parts per million in the recalled Air, Land and Sea Defense Play Set and 7,200 parts per million in the Truck Carry Case.

The House subcommittee sent letters to more than two dozen toy makers and retailers last month asking for information about lead contaminants.

The panel is to hold a two-day hearing beginning on Wednesday to hear testimony from Mattel Chief Executive Robert Eckert, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission acting-Chairman Nancy Nord, and others.

Letters and responses to the panel's request can be found at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_110/110nr84.shtml.

Spokesmen for Mattel and Target were not immediately available for further comment.

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