RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Families with young children and toddlers should pay attention to this next story. It's about a deadly toy that lurks in thousands of backyards, small soccer goals made by MacGregor that have mesh nets large enough for toddlers to get their heads through and strangle. One child has already died. In this exclusive, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is announcing a recall today.
WADE GOODWYN: The soccer goals have a six-feet-long by three-feet-high foldable white frame with a white net held on with velcro straps. On the box is a picture of a boy about five years old dressed in his soccer uniform, happily kicking the ball into the goal. But it's not the five-year-old who might die while playing with this toy, it's his little brother or sister. Scott Wolfson is with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Mr. SCOTT WOLFSON (Media Contact, Consumer Product Safety Commission): The key message for parents today is that there are about 200,000 of these dangerous recreational soccer goals in homes across the country. Parents need to get them out of the home as quickly as possible.
GOODWYN: Last year in Texas, a 21-month-old boy tried to climb the MacGregor net from the back of the goal. He fell through the mesh, and the polyethylene cord contracted around his neck. By the time the mother realized what had happened, the cord around his neck was so tight, she was unable to pull his head back through. She sent her panicking four-year-old back into the house for a pair of scissors while she held her dying son's head, her fingers straining at the cord.
Mr. WOLFSON: The opening with these nylon mesh nets is just simply too big. There needs to be a four-inch space within the nylon netting, and there's a five-inch space. That is a deadly hazard.
GOODWYN: The goals have been sold since 2002 in Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, and other sporting good stores under the name of MacGregor and Mitre sports equipment. Both brands are divisions of Regent Sports in Hauppauge, New York. The goals are manufactured in China, and the difference in cost between making a goal with the deadly five-inch mesh or a goal made with smaller, safer mesh is estimated at less than 20 cents of polyethylene cord. In addition to the strangled child in Texas, there was another incident where a two-year-old became entangled. The child was rescued before he strangled to death. Wolfson wants parents with these types of soccer goals to go in their backyard or their garage and check.
Mr. WOLFSON: Parents shouldn't take the risk of trying to get out that measuring stick and then figure it out themselves. Get on the phone with MacGregor, get on the phone with Regent, and they will work it out for you to let you know if you have one of the recall models.
GOODWYN: Regent Sports did not respond to repeated phone calls. Wal-Mart would only say that they began to remove the product from their shelves in July and August. Ace Hardware did not respond to NPR's request for an interview. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has in the past come under fierce criticism by some members of Congress for lax regulation of Chinese toys. Pamela Gilbert was the Consumer Product Safety Commission's executive director during the Clinton administration.
Ms. PAMELA GILBERT (Former Executive Director, Consumer Product Safety Commission): One of the reasons CPSC should have acted much quicker on this recall is that this is an absolute hidden hazard. CPSC is there to protect the public from hazards we can't protect ourselves from because we don't know about them. Nobody would suspect that a soccer goal could strangle a child.
GOODWYN: The Consumer Product Safety Commission's current chairwoman, Nancy Nord, refused calls for her resignation after she lobbied Congress not to increase the agency's budget in the midst of the Chinese toy recalls. But Pamela Gilbert says the manufacturer and retailers should be ashamed too, continuing to sell a product for so many months after learning it could strangle American children.
Ms. GILBERT: We should absolutely expect the manufacturers and the retailers to act. When they know about a hazard in their product, by law and also morally they are responsible for acting on those product's dangers.
GOODWYN: The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that parents remove the dangerous nets immediately and return them to Regent Sports for a replacement. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: You can learn more details such as model numbers about the products being recalled at our Web site, npr.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.