In yet another blow to the multi-billion dollar toy industry, Mattel Incorporated is recalling nine million dolls, action figures, toy cars and play sets where small, high-powered magnets have been found to come loose or where lead paint has been discovered.
The recall was announced on the company's Web site, and at a Washington news conference by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The acting head of the commission, Nancy Nord, says the danger of lead exposure to children is well documented, and the dislodged magnets pose another hazard.
"If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract [each other] inside the body, causing intestinal perforations, infections and blockages. The company is aware of many incidents where the magnets have fallen out of the toy."
Nord said the CPSC exists to protect all consumers, but acts with added urgency when children's safety is threatened. She was quick to add that no injuries stemming from the recalled products have been reported, and she said there is no reason for consumers to distrust the toy industry as a whole.
"Nine million products is certainly a lot of products. But it represents only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of million of toys that are sold in the United States every year."
Tuesday's announcement was the second recall of Chinese-manufactured toys in recent weeks. The first, involving Mattel's Fisher-Price division, also had to do with lead paint. Lead paint has been linked to brain damage in small children.
The co-owner of the Chinese firm that manufactured the toys from the first recall recently committed suicide.
Appearing on US television (CNBC), Mattel Chairman Bob Eckert said production problems in China have been corrected and new safety standards have been implemented. He expressed hope there would be no lasting distrust of the Mattel brand.
The recall further highlights recent safety concerns involving Chinese-made goods, from toothpaste found to contain a compound found in automobile anti-freeze to tainted pet food. About 80 percent of toys sold in the US are manufactured in China.