The announcement on August 2 that Mattel was recalling almost a million toys because they were covered in lead paint has parents seeing red. Just a month ago, I was urging a boycott of Chinese toys based on the lead found in Thomas the Tank Engines. Now we have to scoop up Dora the Explorer and Elmo before our children can put them in their mouths or otherwise suffer harm. These are toys, for goodness sake. And still, they’re not safe.
The problem seems to be three-fold. First and foremost, the toys are being manufactured in China, where safety laws are lax to say the least. We know Chinese factories have also exported poisonous pet food and dangerous car tires. It makes you wonder if you can even buy chopsticks from China and not worry about getting sick.
Second, the U.S. government does not do enough to regulate the safety of toys coming into our country from abroad. Essentially, the toy industry is allowed to be its own watchdog -- which means the dog isn’t doing a lot of watching. Legislation introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Florida Senator Bill Nelson would require third-party testing of imported and domestic toys and goods aimed at children 5 years old or younger, but it’s only just beginning to make its way through the policy processes on Capitol Hill.
Third, toy stores themselves are not holding manufacturers accountable enough for the products they sell. Safety needs to be verified before a toy leaves China, not after it gets into a child’s play room. In the case of the current recall, Mattel says more than 300,000 tainted toys have been bought by consumers in the United States. Were those toys being sold at stores and online even after Mattel notified retailers of the danger they posed to their customers?
While answers to these questions sort themselves out, you can take action. If you haven’t already done so, visit www.mattel.com for information on how to return any contaminated toys you’ve bought.
Mom’s Rising is organizing a Congressional petition for children's safety at: http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/momsrising/signUp.jsp?key=2362&t=petition.dwt
Contact the toy company where you shop to encourage more responsible monitoring and sourcing from countries other than China:
ROBERT A. ECKERT
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Thomas A. Debrowski, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Operations
333 Continental Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245-5012 (310) 252-2000 tel
Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611 (800) 925-6278
Toys R Us
Joan Donovan. Sr. VP General Merchandise Manager
Toys"R"Us, Inc. International Division
1 Geoffrey Way Wayne, NJ USA 07470 (973) 617-3500
K-B Toys100 West Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201(413) 496-3000
Robert J. Ulrich, CEO
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403 (Map)
To find earth-friendly toys that are not decorated with lead paint, visit. www.ecomall.com
For tips on how to keep your baby's toys safe, see these suggestions from WhattoExpect.com.