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More lead-paint toy recalls coming, source says

  • Story Highlights
  • Target tells Congress it has recalled Sunny Patch Safari Children's Chair toys
  • Toy paint has 30 times the legal amount of lead, prompting recall
  • Documents: Some Mattel recalled toys have 186 times legal amount of lead
  • Mattel CEO: My top goal is for upcoming holiday toys to be "safest ever"
  • Next Article in U.S. »
By Katy Byron
CNN
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(CNN) -- More toys with lead-contaminated paint will be recalled in the coming weeks, a source with knowledge of the announcements said Wednesday.

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A toy dog included in a massive recall was pulled from a store shelf this month in Chicago, Illinois.

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection has posted letters from retailers on its Web site that name toys the companies found contain a hazardous amount of lead. The toys have not been recalled yet and may be on store shelves.

Target spokeswoman Amy Von Walter said she told the subcommittee her company had voluntarily recalled 1,854 Sunny Patch Safari Children's Chair toys on August 30. She said Target had discovered the toys' paint contained more than 30 times the amount of lead allowed by U.S. law.

A formal recall order has not been issued, Von Walter said, but Target is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to that end. See what toys have been recalled »

The House panel requested similar information from 19 toy companies that had sold toys found to contain illegal levels of lead -- including Mattel, Target, Dollar General, and Tween Brands.

A two-day hearing on child protection and toy safety began Wednesday with the testimony of officials from the safety commission -- acting Chairman Nancy Nord and Commissioner Thomas Moore -- and Mattel CEO Bob Eckert.

Mattel told the congressional investigators that some of the 1.5 million recalled toys contained nearly 200 times the legal amount of lead, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The company said that the paint on the recalled toys typically contained 16 times the standards set by the safety council in 1978, but that some toys were found to have 186 times the legal amount.

In a letter to Congress, Ron Elliott, the CEO of Excellence Learning Corp., the parent company of retailer Discount School Supply, said his company had identified three products it had yet to recall -- a set of six paint brushes; rolling storage racks; and giant measuring charts -- after testing found lead levels exceeding "lawful safety standards."

The company has stopped selling the items and is working with the safety council to announce a recall, Elliott wrote. He did not reveal how many products would have to be recalled.

Tween Brands, another company contacted by investigators, said it had "recently learned that a decorative accessory attached to the outer packaging of some products may contain elevated amounts of lead," and it is working with the council to investigate whether a recall is necessary.

Tween Brands also did not disclose how many products may have the tainted packaging.

On Wednesday, the first day of toy hearings on Capitol Hill, lawmakers asked domestic toy companies and the safety council how lead-tainted products managed their way into the marketplace.

Much of the questioning related to how the agency could do its job better.

Commissioner Moore told the subcommittee that he needs 500 more employees. The safety council employs about 400 people; in 1981, it employed more than 1,000.

When asked what consequences a retailer could expect for violating federal standards, acting Chairman Nord replied: "The consequence to them is what has been happening in the marketplace. People don't buy their products, people are very concerned about that and that frankly at the end of the day, economics counts for everything."

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, called the Consumer Product Safety Commission "a watchdog with a muted bark and no bite."

Mattel was the only company represented at the hearing.

"If a company like Dollar General can sell their products to my constituents, and make money off my constituents, one would think at a minimum they would appear before this subcommittee," the panel's chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, said in his opening statement.

Dollar General claims the request to attend came too late. But its senior director of corporate communications, Tawn Earnest, told CNN it plans to cooperate with the subcommittee's investigation.

Mattel's CEO said in his opening statement: "Our standards were ignored and our rules were broken."

"My job is to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again," Eckert added.

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Questioned by a panel made up of many parents and grandparents, Eckert exclaimed forcefully : "My number one goal is to make sure that this holiday season's toys are the safest ever."

He said Mattel sells 800 million toys a year. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Christine Romans contributed to this report.

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