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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

CHADWICK: First, Thomas the Tank Engine, now Elmo and Big Bird. News today of another big recall of toys made in China. One and a half million sold under the Mattel label. They're being recalled because they might have lead-based paint.

MARKETPLACE's Janet Babin joins us. Janet, these are Sesame Street-associated toys and I imagine they're pretty popular.

JANET BABIN: Yeah. Alex, the list includes some of the company's most, you know, beloved characters, really. We're talking Elmo, Big Bird, and SpongeBob, some of the Dora the Explorer items. You can find a complete list of the toys involved and the specifics at the Consumer Products Safety Commission Web site, that's cpsc.gov. And these toys were manufactured in China between April and July and sold in the U.S. and elsewhere worldwide between May and August. But Mattel thinks that only about 300,000 of them in the U.S. were actually sold, the rest it managed to remove from store shelves.

CHADWICK: So the problem, as with the Thomas the Tank Engine a couple of months ago, is that the toys could make children sick.

BABIN: That's right. They may contain a surface paint with excessive amounts of lead in it, and we all know how dangerous lead can be, especially for young kids; it can lead to brain damage.

CHADWICK: What kind of safety record does Mattel have?

BABIN: Well, you know, in the industry they're known for being more diligent than many companies. They have strict controls in place. They have, of course, had a number of toy recalls in the past. But still, in the industry this comes as a surprise and maybe even a wake-up call. The company says it's still investigating. But at this point it thinks that this was apparently a single contract manufacturer in China that the company had a long-standing relationship with.

CHADWICK: But it is another incidence of manufactured goods from China presenting real problems.

BABIN: That's right. You mentioned Thomas and Friends; that happened back in June. Rachel Weintraub is with the Consumer Federation of America. The group is obviously concerned about this. They're calling for changes in the system.

Ms. RACHEL WEINTRAUB (Consumer Federation of America): What we've been proposing is that at every step of the supply chain there needs to be more ways to document oversight, independent testing of component parts, and really making it clear that there's a chain of responsibility.

BABIN: Now, China today, Alex, is defending its products. Government officials said that Chinese products were overwhelmingly safe and they called on the foreign media not to hype the problems of the small minority of products. Mattel, meanwhile, expects that it will have to take a $30 million charge to pay for this recall. So it's rather expensive.

CHADWICK: Thank you, Janet.

Janet Babin of Public Radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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