California sues 20 firms over toxic toys

California on Monday launched a lawsuit against 20 companies, accusing them of manufacturing or selling toys with illegal quantities of lead, a statement said.

California attorney general Jerry Brown said the firms—including Mattel and Toys “R” Us—are being sued for knowingly exposing children to potentially dangerous lead levels.

It follows a series of nationwide toy recalls this year that have seen tens of millions of largely Chinese-made products, including Barbie doll accessories, toy cars, trains and infant toys, withdrawn from stores.

“Companies must take every reasonable step to assure that the products they handle are safe for children and their families and fully comply with the laws of California,” Brown said. “Despite the lengthening global supply chain, every company that does business in this state must follow the law and protect consumers from lead and other toxic materials.”

Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo said the suit filed in Alameda Superior Court is aimed at forcing toy companies to ensure there is no repeat of the violation by adopting procedures that ensure products are safe.

“Lead in toys poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of our children,” Delgadillo said. “This lawsuit is intended to ensure that these companies eliminate lead and other harmful substances from children’s toys, once and for all.”

Each violation of the California law known as Proposition 65 is punishable by a fine of up to $2 500, in theory leaving the firms named in the suit facing a multimillion-dollar damages claim.

Companies named in the suit include: Mattel, Fisher-Price, Michaels Stores, Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, KB Toys, Costco Wholesale, A&A Global Industries, RC2 Corporation, Eveready Battery Company, Kids II, Kmart, Marvel Entertainment and Toy Investments.

A spokesperson for Mattel welcomed the lawsuit, and said the toy giant has cooperated with authorities continuously.

“Mattel expected this development and believes that the attorney general’s assumption of this case will be beneficial to all parties,” a spokesperson said in a statement quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
“The company has been in continuous communication with the California attorney general’s office since the initiation of the recalls this summer and has cooperated fully.”

Brown told the Times he expects the companies to settle the lawsuit by agreeing to “conditions such as testing or putting independent monitors in foreign countries”.

Tougher procedures are needed to protect consumers from “the new world order where the global supply chain goes from Beverly Hills to the hinterlands of China” and where some companies have “closed their eyes” to the threat of contamination.—Sapa-AFP

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