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The Illinois Public Interest Research Group (IPIRG) has issued its annual Survey of Toy Safety. This year’s report focuses on toxic toys and it particularly warns against toys that contain phthalates, a chemical used to soften plastics. Phthalates are often used to make the plastic in teething toys, bath books and rubber duckies soft and flexible, but the chemicals are suspected of causing reproductive and developmental problems, especially in boys. Congress has passed legislation this year, to take effect on February 1, 2009, that bans 6 types of phthalates.

The group also warned of toys that pose choking hazards and those that contain lead and magnets. The Illinois Attorney General warns that if more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract to each other, causing severe personal injuries such as intestinal perforations or blockages which can result in permanent intestinal damage and can be fatal if not treated immediately.

To check the safety of your children’s toys, check the Illinois Attorney General’s 2008 Children’s Product Recall Guide, by clicking here. View the IPIRG report, by clicking here. To read the full story, click here.

Just one month after issuing a recall of Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer toys, Mattel has announced a second, even larger recall. This time, the recall targets two types of toys. First, 436,000 die-cast toys from the “Cars” movie are being recalled because they have been found to contain lead paint. Like the toys from the previous recall, these tainted toys were made in China. Mattel states that it is trying to prevent harming children with its products by moving production to Chinese facilities that it owns and controls, instead of having the toys made by Chinese subcontractors. And while this may improve toy safety in terms of lead poisoning, the change would do little to remedy any problems that caused the second part of the recall. Mattel is also recalling 18,200,000 other toys, including some Barbie toys, because they contain small and powerful magnets that can cause personal injuries to minors if swallowed. The magnetized toys were manufactured according to Mattel design specifications.

Click here for the full article Click here for a prior post on the first Mattel recall Click here for a prior post on the dangers of toys with magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently conducted a random sampling survey of 85 pieces of children’s jewelry. The study showed that 20 percent of the toys sampled posed a potential poisoning hazard to young children. Over 95 percent of the 17.9 million pieces of children’s jewelry items pulled from the market since the start of 2005 were imported from China.

The primary poison concern when dealing with imports from China is the metal lead. Jewelry is the most dangerous place for lead because children can swallow a small piece. This can in turn cause acute poisoning, which can lead to respiratory failure, seizures and even death. From 2000 to 2005 over 20,000 children turned up in emergency rooms after ingesting jewelry. Toy jewelry manufactures may face personal injury lawsuits if found negligent in the sale and distribution of children’s toys.

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After discovering that toys made by its manufacturers in China were tainted with lead paint, Mattel has issued a recall of almost one million of its products in order to prevent personal injuries to minors. Many of the affected toys include some of Mattel’s most popular selling items, including toys that feature Sesame Street and Nickelodeon characters. Although Mattel claims that it has been able to keep 2/3 of the tainted products off the shelves by contacting its distributors and retailers, that leaves nearly 300,000 products in the homes of children. Consumers can identify the toys by looking for date codes from 109-7LF to 187-7LF on the packaging.

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Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with a senator from Minnesota, sent a letter to the company that distributed toys that are subject of a recent recall. The company is recalling several models of wooden Thomas the Train toys after it was learned that the paint on the toys intended for toddlers contained lead paint. The letter asked the Illinois-based toy company how the products were able to make it to American toy stores.

The recall has spurned several product liability suit that are currently seeking class action status. The suits, one of which is being filed in Illinois, seek refunds for the money spent on the toxic toys as well as money to cover future medical expenses in monitoring and treating personal injuries sustained because of the lead-painted toys.

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The Ohio Supreme Court recently declined to review a decision protecting lead paint manufacturers. The earlier decision rejected the plaintiff’s claims because they could not identify which specific former lead paint manufacturer’s paint was in which particular buildings. By declining to review the decision, the state of Ohio has followed the lead of New Jersey and Missouri high courts, which denied similar attempts to get former manufacturers of lead paint to help pay the costs of clean up and removal.

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In a decision that mirrors a recent move by the Missouri Supreme Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court also found in favor of paint manufacturers. Several towns and townships in New Jersey were suing manufacturers, hoping to get the companies who made the lead paint to pay the costs of removing the toxic substance. A similar result was reached when the city of Chicago tried to get lead paint manufacturers to defray the costs in treating children with exposure to the toxins.

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The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled against St. Louis in the city’s attempts to force lead paint manufacturers to contribute to the cost of lead paint cleanup. Although lead paint has been banned since 1978 because of its tendency to cause health and developmental problems in children, many older homes still contain it. In a divided ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the city could not hold the manufacturers responsible because an inability to positively identify the paint used in a given home. The majority ruling claimed that because the city’s lawsuit was not a public health matter, and because the city cannot positively identify the products used, the city should pay for cleanup. The dissenting opinion, however, stated that the case is a public health issue because the paint is hazardous, and all manufacturers of the paint should have to contribute, regardless of whether the paint could be identified in certain homes.

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