Safety Agency: Importers Must Meet U.S. Standards

Mattel is the latest company to be embarrassed by defective products from China. It recalled toys with lead paint and small magnets children could swallow. Nancy Nord, acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, talks with Renee Montagne.

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment. I'm John Ydstie.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Here's what's at the heart of the latest recall by the world's largest toy maker. Toy cars, painted green with a coating of toxic lead paint; Barbie toys with dangerous magnets that, if swallowed, can damage a child's insides. Those are some of the millions of toys recalled yesterday by Mattel. Mattel is the latest company to be embarrassed by defective products, dangerous tires and tainted food from China.

We're joined on the line by Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That's the government agency responsible for regulating the safety of 15,000 kinds of consumer products.

Good morning.

Ms. NANCY NORD (Acting Chairman, Consumer Product Safety Commission): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Your agency recalls many products every year, manufactured not just in China but everywhere. But it really does seem that there is an excessive number of problems with imports from China in this last year. I mean, this is, as I've just said, the second recall in a month from Mattel. What's going on?

Ms. NORD: Well, we do recall products on a regular basis. This year, we've recalled over 400 products. Of those, 44 of those recalled have been of toys. Frankly, Renee, that is a lower number than the number of toy recalls we did last year and the year before. Nevertheless, there is something that is of concern to us. We look at it very, very closely. With respect to what's going on, as I'm sure your listeners realize, much of our manufacturing has moved out of the United States, and much of it is in China. So if that is where products are being made, it's not unexpected that that is where the recalls would be occurring.

MONTAGNE: Now, just very briefly, there have been no injuries connected to this particular recall.

Ms. NORD: No, there have not. But we were concerned enough about the fact that these magnets were becoming dislodged. The problem with magnets is, if you swallow one, well, that's not good, but it's especially bad if a small child swallows two of them. They can come together in the intestinal tract. And the hazard really is for toddler-aged children who crawl around in the ground, might see one of these things that has fallen out. The parent...


Ms. NORD: ...might not have noticed it.

MONTAGNE: Now, consumer groups do say that Mattel is one of the most conscientious and rigorous toy manufacturers in the country. So, does this mean that if their products have problems, all toys from China could be suspect?

Ms. NORD: Toys are one of the most heavily regulated products in our economy. And by and large, toys are very, very safe. Obviously, we don't like to see any recalls. A nine million piece recall is, although it seems to be big, is certainly not the biggest recall that we have done. And when you put it in perspective of the hundreds of millions of toys that are sold in the United States every year, frankly we want to make sure that the market place is safe. But consumers really shouldn't be panicking and thinking that somehow everything in their toy chest is unsafe for the children.

MONTAGNE: Now, we just have a few seconds, but I'd like to ask you one last question very quickly. Next month, you'll be meeting with Chinese officials about product safety, but what can the U.S. government say to China's, or any other country's officials, to make them enforce our safety standards?

Ms. NORD: Well, I think it's very important that Chinese manufacturers who are making products for export to the United States, and the Chinese government who issues the export licenses, to understand that we do have these very strict standards. And our expectation is that if something is manufactured for export into the United States, it meets our safety standards.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.

Ms. NORD: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Nancy Nord is the acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And you can get information about the specific toys being recalled at

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Safety Concerns Prompt Massive Toy Recall

Mattel Inc., is recalling 9 million toys, including these Batman action figure sets. i

Mattel Inc., is recalling 9 million toys — including these Batman action figure sets — because of safety concerns. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Mattel Inc., is recalling 9 million toys, including these Batman action figure sets.

Mattel Inc., is recalling 9 million toys — including these Batman action figure sets — because of safety concerns.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

List of Recalled Toys

Toy maker Mattel Inc. on Tuesday issued a recall for 9 million toys made in China because they contain magnets that can be dislodged and swallowed, or they may contain lead paint.

The recall includes 7.3 million play sets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 253,000 Sarge brand cars that have lead paint. The 2½-inch, 1-inch high car looks like a military jeep.

Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the U.S. consumer Product Safety Commission, said no injuries have been reported with any of the products involved in the recall.

"The scope of these recalls is intentionally large to prevent any injuries from occurring," she said at a mid-morning news conference.

Also recalled were 345,000 Batman and "One Piece" action figures, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets and 1 million Doggie Day Care play sets.

Mattel chief Bob Eckert said the company is working to create stringent safety standards and is conducting independent tests of its toys to ensure they are safe. After Mattel announced the recall of its Fisher-Price toys, it launched a full-scale investigation into all of its factories in China.

Mattel is offering consumers replacement products in exchange for the recalled items.

It is the second time in less than two weeks that Mattel has recalled toys made in China. The company's Fisher-Price division recalled 1.5 million preschool toys from a different Chinese supplier earlier this month because of lead paint. The toys featured characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo. About 967,000 of those toys were sold in the United States between May and August.

Nord said Mattel discovered the latest problem while they were investigating the earlier recall. At Tuesday's news conference, she warned that home test kits are not a reliable way to determine the presence of lead.

After the Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys' manufacturer, Lee Der Industrial Co., from exporting products. Cheung Shu-hung, one of the company's co-owners, committed suicide at a warehouse over the weekend, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.

Lee Der was under pressure in the global controversy over the safety of Chinese-made products, and it is common for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press



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