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Mattel recalling more Chinese-made toys over lead paint in latest blow to toy industry

    WASHINGTON — Mattel recalled 9 million Chinese-made toys Tuesday, including Polly Pocket play sets and Batman action figures, because of dangers to children from lead paint or tiny magnets that could be swallowed.
    Even as the massive recall was announced, company officials warned that it could grow as Mattel implemented more rigorous testing measures to ensure toy safety as the industry gears up for the holiday-buying season.
    The government warned consumers to check at home and make sure their children were not playing with any of the recalled toys.
    Nancy A. Nord, acting Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman, told reporters no injuries had been reported with any of the products involved in Tuesday’s recalls. She explained that the scope of the recalls was intentionally broad, to ‘‘prevent any injuries from occurring.’’
    Several injuries had been reported in an earlier Polly Pocket recall last November. In all, at least one U.S. child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys, the government said.
    The new recall includes about 9.3 million play sets that contain small, powerful magnets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 253,000 die cast cars that contain lead paint. Many of the magnetic toys are older and may have been purchased as early as 2003.
    In a conference call with reporters, Mattel chief executive Bob Eckert said the company is stepping up its oversight and testing in its production processes. As a result, he noted, more recalls may occur.
    ‘‘There is no guarantee that we will not be here again and have more recalls,’’ Eckert said, adding ‘‘we are testing at a very high level here.’’
    Mattel, in a full-page ad Tuesday in some U.S. newspapers, said the company was ‘‘one of the most trusted names with parents’’ and was ‘‘working extremely hard to address your concerns and continue creating safe, entertaining toys for you and your children.’’
    The recall was the latest blow to the toy industry, which has had a string of recalled products from China. With about 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are worried shoppers will shy away from their products.
    It was also the second recall involving lead paint for Mattel in two weeks. Earlier this month, consumers were warned about 1.5 million Chinese-made Fisher-Price toys that contain lead paint.
    Lead is toxic if ingested by young children, and under current regulations, children’s products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
    ‘‘There is no excuse for lead to be found in toys entering this country,’’ Nord said. ‘‘It’s totally unacceptable and it needs to stop.’’
    Toys recalled Tuesday include 253,000 ‘‘Sarge’’ car figurines from the movie ‘‘Cars,’’ because the surface paint could contain lead levels in excess of federal standard. The 2 1/2-inch, 1-inch high car looks like a military jeep.
    Also recalled were 345,000 Batman and ‘‘One Piece’’ action figures, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets, 1 million Doggie Day Care play sets and 7.3 million Polly Pocket dolls and accessories.
    In the newspaper ads, Eckert said ‘‘nothing is more important than the safety of our children.’’
    ‘‘We have already taken steps to further ensure the safety of our toys,’’ he said.
    Nord said the company has stopped selling the recalled products, instructed retailers to pull them from the shelves and made a production change. Mattel is also offering replacement products.
    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which negotiated details of Mattel’s recalls, reported that in the previous recall of Polly Pocket play sets Nov. 21, 2006, three children had been injured by swallowing more than one magnet. All three suffered intestinal perforations that required surgery.
    When more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.
    In March 2006, another toy company, Mega Brands Inc., recalled 3.8 million Magnetix magnetic building sets after one child died and four others were seriously injured after swallowing tiny magnets in them.
    Two weeks ago, Mattel’s Fisher-Price division announced the worldwide recall of 1.5 million Chinese-made preschool toys — featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo — over lead paint.
    Mattel launched a full-scale investigation into all of its factories in China and discovered the latest problem during that investigation, Nord said.
    Eckert said the recall decision was made at the end of last week.
    In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Eckert said that the correct paint for the ‘‘Sarge’’ cars was sent to a subcontractor, who apparently ‘‘chose not to use the paint.’’
    Days after the Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys’ manufacturer, Lee Der Industrial Co., from exporting products. A Lee Der co-owner, Cheung Shu-hung, committed suicide at a warehouse over the weekend, apparently by hanging himself, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.
    Consumers should call Mattel at 888-597-6597 for information about the recalled toys with magnets, or 800-916-4997 for information about the recalled cars.
    ———
    Associated Press reporters Ann Sanner in Washington and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.
    ———
    On the Net:
    Mattel: http://service.mattel.com/us/recall.asp
    Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/

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