Toy Recall Raises Accountability Questions

Toys are a childhood staple aimed in part at encouraging creativity. Often parents assume the play things they purchase are safe, but giant toy maker Mattel's recent recall of 1.5 million Chinese-made toys because of lead paint contamination highlighted the growing safety concerns.

Some question why the toys weren't recalled before they arrived on stores' shelves and in families' homes.

"I think this is scarier than your typical recall because lead paint is a serious issue, and I think because of that it's getting great attention -- deserved attention -- and will get deserved priority," said Joan Lawrence of the Toy Industry Association.

Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope believes closer examination may have prevented the incident.

"If you're running a really tight ship, millions of contaminated toys wouldn't be coming in to your ship," he said.

All the toys were traced back to China, where production costs are cheaper, but the industry is more difficult to regulate.

"I think naturally, given the distance, naturally it's harder to monitor," Lawrence said. "But I think that it's important enough, and we have the systems in place, we just need to find out where that hole was and fill that hole and fix any potential problems."

But Lawrence said that while the U.S. companies are placing primary blame on China, direct responsibility belongs to the companies that sell the toys.

"I think Mattel, the example from last week, is taking responsibility," she said. "If a company deliberately put out a toy with lead paint, that company would be out of business. And if that's what it turns out to be, I can assure you that will be the case."

Even with all the press the issue has received, Lawrence said Americans should be confident in the country's toy supply.

"It hasn't changed the way I shop for toys for my own kids," she said.

Mattel, which declined an interview request, released a statement saying, "This week, Mattel senior executives are in China meeting with each and every vendor that we do business with to reiterate the 'rules of the road' for doing business with Mattel moving forward. Each and every vendor will be required to verify their commitment to our safety and quality standards, in writing, in order to continue doing business with us."