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US toymaker Mattel recalls 18 million Chinese-made toys

the Jurassic economy
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 14, 2007
Fears about toy safety soared Tuesday as US toymaker Mattel recalled more than 18 million Chinese-made products worldwide, amid concerns about high lead levels and small magnets which have seriously injured at least three children.

"Mattel is recalling 18.2 million magnetic toys globally, 9.5 million in the US," the California-based company said in a statement.

All the toys were manufactured in China, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Mattel.

"The recall expands upon Mattel's voluntary recall of eight toys in November 2006 and is based on a thorough internal review of all Mattel's brands," the US toy manufacturer said.

Mattel recalled 4.4 million Polly Pocket play sets in November after receiving nearly 200 reports of magnets becoming dislodged.

Three children had to undergo surgery after swallowing more than one magnet that fell out of Polly Pocket toys, which perforated their intestines.

If swallowed, small magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.

"There had been three reports of serious injuries to children who swallowed more than one magnet," the CPSC and Mattel said in a joint statement issued Tuesday, announcing that another 7.3 million Polly Pocket play sets were being recalled.

Since the previous recall, Mattel has received another 400 reports of magnets coming loose from Polly Pocket toys.

Nancy Nord, chairwoman of the safety board, stressed that her agency has been "warning of the dangers from small magnets for more than a year."

About one million Doggie Day Care sets, nearly 700,000 toys from the popular Barbie line, and 345,000 Batman and One Piece action figures have also been recalled following reports of dislodged magnets.

Mattel has received 26 reports of magnets dislodging from those toys, but no injuries were reported.

Mattel is also recalling 436,000 die-cast "Sarge" jeeps from its Cars product line because of "impermissible levels of lead" in their paint.

More than 250,000 of the die-cast model car were recalled in the United States and 183,000 overseas.

The toy cars were painted by a subcontracting company in China, which "violated Mattel's standards and utilized paint from a non-authorized third-party supplier," the California-based toy company said in a statement.

Officials at China's Ministry of Commerce and Foreign Ministry were unavailable for comment.

Tuesday's sweeping recall came as Mattel launched its autumn advertising campaign.

"Your children are our children too," read the advertisement run in the New York Times.

The recall and earlier alerts have sent parents and care givers scurrying into bedrooms and opening toy chests to scrutinize children's play things.

Jannell Furrer, who looks after 10 children, from infants to nine-year-olds, at a day care center in Colorado, said she does not buy toys from Mattel if they bear the made-in-China label.

"I won't buy toys from Mattel any more if I see that they are made in China. The toys I have that are from Mattel are old and second-hand. They're guaranteed not to have that stuff in them," she told AFP by phone.

Company CEO Robert Eckert tried to reassure parents that their children were safe with Mattel toys.

"The safety of children is our primary concern, and we are deeply apologetic to everyone affected," Eckert said.

"We don't want to have recalls, but we don't hesitate to take quick and effective action to correct issues," he added.

earlier related report
The massive global recall on Tuesday by US toy giant Mattel of 18 million toys, half of them in the United States, was the latest alert to rattle consumer confidence in made-in-China goods.

Of more than 86 million items made in or containing parts that originated in China, which were recalled in the United States over the past two years, nearly 26 million, or 30 percent, were children's toys, according to an AFP count.

Here is a list of the main product recalls in the past two years.

-- 2007 --

Aug 14: US toymaker Mattel recalled more than 18 million Chinese-made products worldwide, more than half of them in the United States, amid concerns about high lead levels and small magnets which have seriously injured at least three children.

On the same day, the US Food and Drug Administration recalled a Chinese-produced toothpaste often found in hotels after tests showed that samples contained diethylene glycol, which is used as an antifreeze.

Aug 9: A quarter of a million Chinese-made car tires are recalled by their US importer, who said they lacked or had insufficiently large gum strips, a key safety feature. On the same day, the Schylling toy company recalled 24,000 Chinese-made "Thomas & Friends" spinning tops, saying they were painted with lead-based paint.

Aug 1: Mattel's Fisher-Price subsidiary recalled nearly one million toys made in China, including items from the popular Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer product lines, saying they could be colored with lead-based paints.

June 14: A US importer recalled 1.5 million "Thomas and Friends" wooden trains made in China because of paint containing lead.

March 24: A Canadian company expanded its recall of pet food to 60 million cans and pouches after the deaths of 14 pets were blamed on the food. The pet food was made in the United States using wheat imported from China that was found to contain a toxin used to kill rats.

-- 2006 --

Nov 21: Mattel recalled 4.4 million Chinese-made Polly Pocket toys after tiny magnets contained in the sets injured at least three small children.

Aug 30: A San Francisco toy company recalled some 273,000 Chinese squirt guns due to the risk they could impale children in swimming pools.

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Climate change, humans endanger historic Silk Road stop
Beijing (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
China's historic Silk Road city of Dunhuang and its archaeological treasures are under threat from the effects of climate change, human activity and mismanagement, state media reported on Sunday.

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