Lead is often a hidden hazard – two years ago it was found hiding in children’s Polly Pocket and Batman toys. As more is understood about how prevalent lead-containing products are, parents are becoming more vigilant about ensuring their children’s toys are lead-free. In 2007, many families were shocked to hear of a massive recall of lead-laden Fisher-Price and Mattel toys that had been made in China. As a result of the recall, a class-action lawsuit was filed.

This past week a settlement was reached between Fisher-Price, Mattel and the lawsuit participants. Ultimately, these toy giants may end up paying out more than $50 million for this toxic oops. The settlement is currently awaiting approval by the court system. Although $50 million is a big chunk of change, consumers aren’t going to be financing their lead-free holiday gift buying with their portion of the settlement. Most consumers will receive a maximum of $10 under the proposed plan.

In addition to the consumer payouts, “Mattel will also create a quality assurance program, overseen by the court, and will donate $275,000 to the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, a not-for-profit group of 150 children's hospitals and pediatric units.” Source: The Associated Press

According to the Mayo Clinic, children with an elevated blood lead level may experience a variety of complications including learning disabilities, nervous system damage, muscle coordination issues, and behavioral problems.

The dangers of lead poisoning, and the increasing presence of this contaminant in children’s products, led the U.S. government, with the support of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to pass the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008.

Although companies have been more diligent in their pursuit of toys that meet the strict CPSIA lead guidelines, the lead-based recalls continue. In the past month, two different recalls were issued by the CPSC for children’s products that contained excessive levels of lead.

However, both Fisher-Price and Mattel have worked furiously to ensure the safety of their toy products. Neither company has been subject to a recall for lead violation since the mass recall in 2007.

Photo: semihundido/Flickr

Toy companies reach lead settlement
Mattel and Fisher-Price may end up paying more than $50 million as part of a class action lawsuit filed after lead-laden toys were sold to millions of American