By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kids Nutrition Specialist
Just before the year ends, Mattel Inc, the worlds largest toymaker, settled with 39 US states today over lead tainted toys. Worry over toy safety had lulled since its peak at about this time last year until the recent few weeks as toy shopping is in full swing once again.
The settlement arrives several months after a year of recalls involving several China based manufacturers. Last year alone, Mattel was forced to recall more than 18 million toys made in China due to either lead paint or choking hazards from magnets. If swallowed by small children, the magnets can damage digestive tracts while lead can lead to brain damage and other serious complications.
Although no children were directly injured by lead in the Mattel toys in question including Dora the Explorer, Cars characters, and Barbie; those toys are no longer on toy shelves. The states involved in the large settlement will be using the money to educate their constituents on the dangers of lead paint in addition to testing kids for lead exposure.
A Mattel spokesperson stated that Mattel has gone above and beyond current requirements and claims to have demonstrated a commitment to childrens safety. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley advised that although we have dropped our guard a little on the lead paint issue, federal and state governments must remain vigilant for the sake of childrens safety.
The acceptable level of surface lead paint in toys has been lowered by 85% in the United States beginning August 2009. Mattel has agreed to meet that standard by November 30. Providing goods for much of the world from toys to foods, China has faced a slew of product complaints over the past year. Hopefully China will follow suit this year and create more stringent standards so children can have safe toys.