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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo have reached a settlement with Mattel, Inc. – and several other toy makers – that will “safeguard California’s children” from lead-contaminated toys this Christmas.
Even though a new federal law ratcheting down standards for lead in toys won’t go into effect until February 10, 2009, Mattel and its subsidiary Fisher-Price, RC2 (which makes Thomas the Tank Engine toys), A&A Global Industries, Cranium Inc., Eveready Battery Company, Marvel Entertainment, Toy Investments, Kids II, and Amscan, have agreed to adopt the tough new federal standards immediately. By this agreement, the companies have pledged not to sell any toys they know contain lead, and in addition will pay $550,000 for lead testing and improved consumer notification.
“These consumer protection agreements will safeguard California’s children from lead-contaminated toys this Christmas,” Attorney General Brown said.
“Putting these agreements into effect immediately is absolutely critical because so many toys are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas, months before new federal standards go into effect.”
In the wake of disturbing revelations about lead-contaminated toys imported from China over the past two years, Attorney General Brown and City Attorney Delgadillo filed suit against 17 toy manufacturers and retailers on November 19, 2007. Nine months later, Congress passed landmark consumer product safety legislation, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
The federal legislation:
• Lowers the standard for lead in paint and surface coatings from 600 parts per million currently to 90 parts per million after August 14, 2009.
• Establishes increasingly tight restrictions for lead in other materials used in toys – such as plastics, metals and fabrics. These restrictions are phased in over time.
February 10, 2009 – 600 parts per million
August 14, 2009 – 300 parts per million
August 14, 2011 – 100 parts per million
By the terms of the settlement agreement announced today, the companies will:
• Implement the federal lead standards on December 1, 2008, instead of February 10, 2009.
• Meet the 90 parts per million lead in paint standard by December 1, 2008, instead of by August 14, 2009, except for Kids II and Amscan, which will adhere to the federal timeline.
• Meet the 300 parts per million standard for lead in plastics, metals, and fabrics by December 1, 2008, instead of August 14, 2009, except for Kids II and Amscan, which will adhere to the federal timeline.
• If the companies find toys in excess of the lead standard, they will stop selling and distributing those toys, regardless of when the toy was made. This will be in effect this holiday season.
• Pay into a $550,000 fund to test toys for lead and improve outreach about future recalls. They will pay another $460,000 for the Attorney General’s and Los Angeles City Attorney’s Proposition 65 enforcement activities and $548,500 in civil penalties.
• Implement a Quality Assurance System that is designed to identify and to segregate toys with lead during and after the manufacturing process.
• Send direct notice of a recall to consumers of the product for whom they possess address or email contact information.
If the companies violate the lead standard in the future, the Attorney General can obtain penalties through an expedited enforcement process.
This agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the State of California and the LA City Attorney in November 2007, after receiving notices of violation from the Center for Environmental Health, As you Sow, and the Environmental Law Foundation.
The lawsuit alleges that Mattel and 16 other companies knowingly exposed individuals to lead—a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive harm—and failed to provide any warning about this risk.
Other defendants not part of this settlement are: Costco, KB Toys, Kmart, Michaels, Sears, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart.
Background on Proposition 65
During the last year and a half, there have been frequent recalls of toys imported from China due to lead in the paint. Subsequently, the Attorney General’s Office began an investigation under Proposition 65, which ensures that businesses cannot expose individuals to hazardous chemicals without posting a clear and reasonable warning.
Proposition 65 is enforced through lawsuits brought by the Attorney General, district attorneys and city attorneys in cities with a population exceeding 750,000. Lawsuits may also be brought by private parties, but only after these parties notify the Attorney General of the alleged violation. Businesses that violate Proposition 65 are subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per day for each violation.
Proposition 65 requires the Governor to publish a list of chemicals that are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Lead has been listed since 1987 as a chemical that can cause reproductive harm and birth defects, and has been on the list of chemicals known to cause cancer since 1992.
For more information about Prop 65 and to view the private party notices please visit: http://ag.ca.gov/prop65/index.php.