Mattel toys' lead was 180 times the limit

Lead in the paint on some of the toys Mattel recalled this summer was 180 times the amount allowed by law, and Oriental Trading Co. sold jewelry that was almost 100% lead, documents released Tuesday by a congressional subcommittee show.

A House Energy and Commerce panel will hold two days of hearings on the issue of lead-tainted toys and children's jewelry. It plans to question Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Mattel mat CEO Robert Eckert on Wednesday.

"We want to get some reassurances that the children's toys the American consumer purchases are safe," says Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who will chair the hearings. Rush, chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, sent letters to 29 companies that have recalled toys and kids' jewelry with high lead content. Among other questions, he asked how much lead was in the products.

Mattel, in its first public comments about the specific lead levels in 1.5 million recalled toys, acknowledged that some of the paint on the toys was up to 11% lead, or 110,000 parts per million. Federal law allows just 0.06% lead, or 600 parts per million.

That means the level in some of the Mattel toys was almost twice the amount allowed before lead in house paint was banned 30 years ago, says John Rosen, a pediatrician and head of the lead program at New York City's Children's Hospital at Montefiore. He says a child who played with a toy with up to 11% lead paint for one to six months could get "substantial, severe lead poisoning."

"It's totally outrageous that products that are highly leaded, dangerous and can cause death are in the marketplace," says Rosen, who has treated more than 30,000 children with lead poisoning,

Children who suck on or ingest toys or jewelry with high lead content may be poisoned, which can lead to learning and behavior problems.

The Centers for Disease Control defines lead poisoning as blood lead levels above 10. But since this level was set in 1991, research has shown that decreases in IQ occur at levels as low as 4.

Oriental Trading Co. said in its response to Rush that a beaded photo charm bracelet recalled in March 2006 contained 96% lead. Religious fish necklaces, recalled in May, were more than 87% lead. Rosen says both could kill a child who swallowed them. Oriental Trading's inexpensive toys and novelties are often bought in bulk by schools and given as party favors.

Tween Brands twb— which owns the Limited Too and Justice stores — said seven of eight clasps on necklaces it recalled in May were more than 35% lead.

Rush said he was encouraged that Eckert would testify. It will be his second Capitol Hill appearance in a week. Dollar General kkr was the only company asked to attend the hearings that refused, Rush says.

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