Can Americans Trust Toys Made in China to Be Lead-Free?

Toy company executive Curt Stoelting is flying halfway around the world to answer one question that may be on the minds of many American parents as the holiday season approaches.

Are the toys his company makes in China safe?

His company, Chicago-based RC2, was forced to make the first of many recalls of toys that had been tainted with lead-based paint this year. Stoelting knows that if he cannot answer yes to the above question, his half-billion-dollar business selling toys for infants and preschoolers is at risk.

"I want to come see it with my own eyes," Stoelting said of toy production in China.

ABC News' David Kerley joined Stoelting as he visited the Chinese factories, where blocks of wood become his Thomas and Friends wooden trains that are destined for the shelves of U.S. toy stores in time for the holidays.

Inexcusable Mistakes

"There never should have been high levels of lead in the paint they use," Stoelting said. "So our belief is that corners were cut."

Now his company, and many others in China, are creating new safety systems in an attempt to keep their toys safe.

Before the recalls, RC2 tested paint before it went on toys only once a year. "We had a process we thought was adequate to make sure that it wasn't a problem for us. And I think we took that process for granted," he said. "We have 20/20 hindsight on that now."

Safer Standards

When paint arrives at the RC2 factory, it is now set aside, gets a yellow label and some of it is sent out for testing. The paint will get a green label only if those tests prove it is completely free of lead, so that it's clear to workers in the factory which paint containers are tested and safe for production.

The factory is also taking the extra step of putting date codes on finished toys so they can be traced back to production. RC2 also uses high-tech X-ray guns on the toys, which can detect more than half a dozen heavy metals, including lead.

With all of this testing, can Stoelting guarantee American consumers that RC2's toys are completely free of lead?

"I can never make a guarantee like that, but we will not compromise toy safety for anything," he said. "Because we won't be in business long-term if we do that."

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