Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and 38 Other AGs Reach $12 Million Settlement with Mattel Regarding Toys Recalled for Excessive Lead Paint
Massachusetts to receive $625,000; majority to be used to combat childhood lead poisoning
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BOSTON - Today, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, along with the Attorneys General of 38 other states, reached a settlement agreement with Mattel, Inc., and its subsidiary, Fisher-Price, Inc., resolving a 15-month investigation into the events that lead to a voluntary recall of the companies' toys for excessive lead paint in 2007. The consent judgment, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, requires Mattel to make a payment of $12 million by January 30, 2009, to be divided among the participating states. As the leader of the multi-state group investigation and settlement, Massachusetts will receive $625,000 as a result of the settlement; $500,000 will be dedicated to combating and preventing childhood lead poisoning and $125,000 will cover the costs of the investigation.
"Lead is highly toxic, particularly to young children. Higher exposures to lead, such as the levels found in these toys, can cause grave health problems," said Attorney General Coakley. "This agreement also includes important lead monitoring requirements that should prevent a similar public health scare from occurring in the future, in addition to funds that will be used for preventative efforts on the state level. Our office looks forward to working with the Department of Public Health and public health organizations to use settlement funds to protect children from the dangers of lead poisoning."
From August 2, 2007, through October 25, 2007, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC") recalled approximately 2 million Mattel and Fisher-Price toys, all manufactured by contractors in China, because the toys contained excessive lead in accessible surface coatings and substrates. A substrate is the base substance a toy is made of that is distinct from the surface coating that covers a toy. At the time of the recalls, the federal standard permitted for lead in accessible surface coatings was 600 parts per million (ppm). During the course of the states' investigation, authorities found that lead levels in the recalled toys not only exceeded the federal standard, but in some instances, tested over 10,000 ppm and 50,000 ppm. The Attorneys General investigated how Mattel permitted these lead-tainted toys to enter the stream of commerce and whether Mattel's contracting and quality assurance processes were sufficient to guard against lead-tainted toys.
The agreement reached by the Attorneys General and Mattel includes more stringent standards for accessible lead, in both surface coatings and substrates, effective for toys manufactured after November 30, 2008. Under the settlement,the new standards are 90 ppm for lead paint and surface coatings, and 300 ppm total lead for substrates.
Since the Attorneys General first contacted Mattel in August 2007, Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act ("CPSIA"), which requires more stringent standards for lead in surface coatings and substrates, effective in February 2009. Under the judgment filed today, Mattel must phase-in more stringent standards ahead of the timelines provided by the CPSIA. Mattel is also required to notify the Attorneys General if it confirms excessive lead in any of its products in violation of state or federal law, or the Consent Judgment, and to work with the Attorneys General to remedy such violations. Under the Consent Judgment, should Mattel sell toys in the future that surpass the judgment's lead standards, that conduct would constitute contempt of the judgment as well as a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. The toys containing lead have been recalled from shelves, and the Consent Judgment provides protections against future harm for toys now being manufactured.
The Attorney General's Office will use the bulk of the money recovered to combat and prevent childhood lead poisoning through the administration of a grant program. The Attorney General's Office will partner with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (DPH) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and other medical experts to develop the program. Specifically, the Attorney General's Office will draw on DPH's extensive experience in lead poisoning prevention to establish criteria and evaluate applications. It is currently anticipated that up to 10 one-year grants in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 will be distributed to geographically diverse community health or non-profit organizations throughout Massachusetts. In order to be eligible for a grant, organizations must be able document that it can do at least one of the following:
- Increase lead poisoning awareness through education and outreach
- Increase the percentage of children under the age of 48 months who are screened for lead exposure
- Test homes or toys for the presence of lead
- Increase the number of referrals of children with lead exposure to the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
"The Attorneys General's victory in this settlement will provide valuable resources to community-based organizations that are working to reduce the risk of lead poisoning among the most vulnerable children in the state. Along with the steps to strengthen the national protections against lead in children's toys these efforts will assist parents in insuring their children are not exposed to toxic environmental substances," Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said.
Lead, at any level, is dangerous in the body. Very small amounts of lead can cause neurological damage, drops in IQ and long term behavioral problems. Higher exposures can lead to seizures, coma or death. Lead poisoning is cumulative and most children who have it do not look or act sick. Early signs of lead poisoning include:
- Upset Stomach
- Trouble eating or sleeping
- Trouble paying attention
Visit the Department of Public Health's website section on the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for additional information about lead poisoning prevention and state laws about mandatory lead paint testing. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers a brochure about the dangers of lead paint, a major source for childhood lead poisoning, which can be found on the EPA website at: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/lpandyce.pdf.
While all affected toys have been removed from the market, consumers who are concerned that a toy they purchased may be affected can cross check the SKU number on the toy with the recall list on Mattel's website, www.mattel.com, or by calling Mattel at (800) 916-4498.
Attorney General Coakley's Office led an Executive Committee, which included Assistant Attorneys General in Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont. California also took part in negotiations, reaching a separate agreement under its Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.
Other states participating in today's agreement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Diane Lawton and April English of Attorney General Coakley's Consumer Protection Division.
Press Conference Visuals and Supporting Materials
Attorney General Coakley, accompanied by (from left): Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clements, Chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau; and Assistant Attorney General Chris Barry-Smith, Chief of the Consumer Protection Division.
Attorney General Coakley, accompanied by (from left): Assistant Attorney General April English; Clements; Barry-Smith; and Assistant Attorney General Diane Lawton.
Attorney General Coakley, accompanied by Clements.
Listen to the press conference audio from December 15, 2008:
- Mattel Press Conference Audio (mp3) file size 2MB
Read a transcript of the press conference: