Curious George Dolls May Have High Lead Levels (LA Times)

Marc Lifsher, The Los Angeles Times, Business News

An activist group sends a complaint to Marvel, which markets the toy.

That little monkey is in trouble again. This time, a Curious George
doll has found itself in the middle of national worries about lead
contamination in toys.

Alarmed
by new testing that reportedly found high levels of contamination in
the doll, a group of activists is brandishing California's Proposition
65 environmental law in its drive to get lead out of the toy chest.

The Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health, which has been at
the forefront of a recent drive to pull lead-tainted toys, lunchboxes,
candy and children's jewelry from stores, sent a legal complaint to
Marvel Entertainment Inc., which markets the Curious George Birthday
doll.

The
goal of the litigation is to spur companies "to get the lead out of the
product and have mandatory testing regimes to ensure the lead stays out
of the products," said Michael Green, Environmental Health's director.
Aggressive testing is needed "before the products get on shelves,
instead of having endless recalls after they are in the hands of kids."

Lead
has been identified by the state as causing cancer and birth defects.
It also can contribute to brain and neurological problems, especially
in children. Proposition 65, an initiative approved by voters in 1986
known as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act,
requires manufacturers or retailers to post warning notices on all such
products.

In its complaint, Environmental Health accused Marvel
of failing to post notices on its Curious George packaging warning that
the doll had paint and plastic components that contain lead. The center
said its testing showed one doll contained 6,000 parts per million of
lead, more than 10 times the legal limit.

A spokesman for Marvel
said his company had halted all shipments of the doll and was pulling
samples from its Chinese supplier for testing. He said the product
would be recalled voluntarily if the testing confirmed Environmental
Health's findings.

A recall, however, wouldn't allay the fears
of Gina Schreiner of Albuquerque. The plush doll with a plastic face
has been the "absolutely favorite toy" of her 2-year-old son for about
the last year. "I'm a little nervous," said Schreiner, who plans to
have her child checked for lead.

In a related complaint filed
Wednesday, Environmental Health accused Sassafras Enterprises Inc., a
Chicago gift products company, of not putting legally required warnings
on soft vinyl lunch bags allegedly contaminated with lead. A
spokeswoman for Sassafras said it had stopped shipping the lunch bags,
pulled them from its website and begun retesting the product.

The
legal notices sent by the center also accuse Toys R Us Inc., Wal-Mart
Stores Inc., Sears Holdings Corp.'s Sears and Kmart stores, K-B Toys
Inc., Target Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and other large retailers of
failing to provide notice on a number of toys and other items that are
used by children.

The toys, manufactured outside the U.S.,
include train sets, building blocks, carts and children's gardening
tools, according to the complaints.

Under California law, the
attorney general has 60 days to take action against the companies named
in the center's complaint. The attorney general also has the option to
join the center's attorneys in pursuing the case or to allow the center
to act independently on behalf of the state.

Deputy Atty. Gen.
Edward Weil said the new Environmental Health complaints might be
settled out of court along the lines of cases involving importers of
lead-tainted children's jewelry that were resolved in June 2006.

"I
would be very surprised if the toy manufacturers want to sell toys with
a lead warning," Weil said. "They will do whatever needs to be done so
their product does not require a warning."

Tags: , ,