California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo have reached a settlement with Mattel Inc. and several other toy makers that will “safeguard California’s children” from lead-contaminated toys this Christmas.
Although a new federal law ratcheting down standards for lead in toys won’t go into effect until Feb. 10, 2009, Mattel and its subsidiary Fisher-Price, RC2 (which makes Thomas the Tank Engine toys), A&A Global Industries, Cranium Inc., Eveready Battery Co., Marvel Entertainment, Toy Investments, Kids II, and Amscan, have agreed to adopt the new federal standards immediately. By this agreement, the companies have pledged not to sell any toys they know contain lead, and in addition will pay $550,000 for lead testing and improved consumer notification.
“These consumer protection agreements will safeguard California’s children from lead-contaminated toys this Christmas,” Attorney General Brown said. “Putting these agreements into effect immediately is absolutely critical because so many toys are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas, months before new federal standards go into effect.”
In the wake of revelations about lead-contaminated toys imported from China during the past two years, Attorney General Brown and City Attorney Delgadillo filed suit against 17 toy manufacturers and retailers on Nov. 19, 2007. Nine months later, Congress passed landmark consumer product safety legislation, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
The federal legislation:
• Lowers the standard for lead in paint and surface coatings from 600 parts per million currently to 90 parts per million after Aug. 14, 2009.
• Establishes increasingly tight restrictions for lead in other materials used in toys – such as plastics, metals and fabrics. These restrictions are phased in over time.
By the terms of the settlement agreement in California, the companies will:
• Implement the federal lead standards on Dec. 1, 2008, instead of Feb. 10, 2009.
• Meet the 90 parts per million lead in paint standard by Dec. 1, 2008, instead of by Aug. 14, 2009, except for Kids II and Amscan, which will adhere to the federal timeline.
• Meet the 300 parts per million standard for lead in plastics, metals, and fabrics by Dec. 1, 2008, instead of August 14, 2009, except for Kids II and Amscan, which will adhere to the federal timeline.
• If the companies find toys in excess of the lead standard, they will stop selling and distributing those toys, regardless of when the toy was made. This will be in effect this holiday season.
• Pay into a $550,000 fund to test toys for lead and improve outreach about future recalls. They will pay another $460,000 for the Attorney General’s and Los Angeles City Attorney’s Proposition 65 enforcement activities and $548,500 in civil penalties.
• Implement a Quality Assurance System that is designed to identify and to segregate toys with lead during and after the manufacturing process.
• Send direct notice of a recall to consumers of the product for whom they possess address or email contact information.
If the companies violate the lead standard in the future, the Attorney General can obtain penalties through an expedited enforcement process.
This agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the State of California and the LA City Attorney in November 2007, after receiving notices of violation from the Center for Environmental Health, As you Sow, and the Environmental Law Foundation.
The lawsuit alleges that Mattel and 16 other companies knowingly exposed individuals to lead and failed to provide any warning about this risk.
Other defendants not part of this settlement are: Costco, KB Toys, Kmart, Michaels, Sears, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart.