In the Consumer Product Safety Commission's first penalty resulting from a chain of toy recalls in 2007, toymaker Mattel and its Fisher-Price subsidiary have agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty for importing and selling toys with excessive levels of lead.
The penalty is part of a settlement the companies reached with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced Friday, that the toymaker had knowingly violated a 30-year-old federal ban on lead paint in toys.
The companies deny having willfully violated the ban.
The penalty stems from a series of recalls by Mattel and Fisher-Price in 2007, when the companies recalled nearly 2 million popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and other toys because of excessive levels of lead found in the paint on the toys.
Barbie doll accessories and "Sarge" toy cars were also part of the recalls.
The commission says the fine is the biggest for a lead paint violation involving children's toys.
Mattel and Fisher-Price were among dozens of manufacturers that yanked millions of Chinese-made toys from store shelves in the months leading up to the 2007 holiday shopping season. The recalls made parents uneasy as they shopped for gifts for small children.
"These highly publicized toy recalls helped spur congressional action last year to strengthen CPSC and make even stricter the ban on lead paint on toys," said the commission's acting Chairman Thomas Moore. "This penalty should serve notice to toy makers that CPSC is committed to the safety of children."
"Today's settlement announcement by the U.S. CPSC resolves Mattel's outstanding issues with the agency related to certain matters that arose in 2007," Mattel said. "Mattel promptly took a series of steps after discovering compliance issues with some of our toys at that time.
"We were able to effectively minimize any potential concerns by launching a fast-track recall of the affected product in conjunction with the CPSC and other global regulatory agencies, and by taking several steps to enhance our product compliance protocols and procedures to confirm that every Mattel toy is safe for children to enjoy," Mattel said. Fisher-Price referred calls to Mattel.
Mattel, based in El Segundo, Calif., has not had any lead paint recalls since the 2007 cases, which spurred congressional action and a new law last summer — called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act — that restricts the amount of lead allowed in children's products.
Lead poisoning in children can cause neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, learning deficiencies, and other problems.