Toy Recall Update: Mattel Recalls 9 Million Toys

Mattel is voluntarily recalling 9 million of its toys — including Sarge character toys from the movie "Cars"; Batman action figures; and Barbie, Doggie Daycare, and Polly Pocket play sets — because of hazards to children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced Aug. 14.

The 7.3 million play sets and 1.5 million die cast cars, all made in China, either could have lead paint or contain small, powerful magnets that can be swallowed. According to the CPSC, if more than one magnet is swallowed, they could cause intestinal damage and other injuries.

The announcement comes just weeks after Mattel's Fisher-Price brand recalled from stores nearly 1 million its Dora the Explorer, Diego, and Sesame Street toys that "could contain" toxic levels of lead paint and 2 months after lead-paint concerns prompted the CPSC to recall 1.5 million Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys.

What This Means to You

Coming into contact with a toy — or anything else containing lead — once or twice probably isn't cause for too much concern. It's continual exposure over a period of time that usually causes lead poisoning, which can bring on a host of health problems like learning and hearing disabilities, behavior problems, and delayed development. But even low levels of lead in a child's blood can cause subtle difficulties with behavior and learning.

Magnets (or a magnet and another metal object) can attract to each other internally when swallowed, causing serious, potentially fatal injuries like torn, twisted, or blocked bowels.

But lead paint and magnets are only two of the many reasons products might be pulled from store shelves. Numerous items are recalled every week when the CSPC identifies a substantial hazard or a company reports a defect or concern. But how do hazardous items make it to the public in the first place?

Toys and children's jewelry must meet federal and industry safety standards (for things like lead paint, choking hazards, and sharp points). However, these products are not approved for safety by a federal agency before they're actually sold. Companies are expected to comply with the standards, whether they manufacture products in or import them to the United States. Testing, usually by an independent laboratory, is the only way companies can make sure their products meet all of the safety standards.

To stay on top of the latest recalls:

  • Sign up for the CPSC's regular email announcements by going to their website and choosing the categories you're interested in (infant/children's products, sports equipment, household products, etc.).
  • Search the CPSC's site to see if any of your new or secondhand items have been recalled.
  • Send in the registration card whenever you buy a new product.

For more information on the toy recalls, go to the CPSC's website. Visit Mattel's website to see details, including pictures, of the items recalled to find out if you might have some of the potentially hazardous toys in your home.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2007