Toy-maker Fisher-Price is recalling 83 types of toys - including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters - because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead.
The worldwide recall being announced Thursday involves 967,000 plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the U.S. between May and August. It is the latest in a wave of recalls that has heightened global concern about the safety of Chinese-made products.
The recall is the first for Fisher-Price Inc. and parent company Mattel involving lead paint. It is the largest for Mattel since 1998 when Fisher-Price had to yank about 10 million Power Wheels from toy stores.
In an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday, David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price, said the problem was detected by an internal probe and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company.
The commission works with companies to issue recalls when it finds consumer goods that can be harmful. Under current regulations, children's products found to have more than 0.06% lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
Allmark says the recall was "fast-tracked," which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the toys before they even made it to store shelves. In negotiating details of the recall, Fisher-Price and the government agreed to withhold details from the public until Thursday to give stores time to get suspect toys off shelves and Fisher-Price time to get its recall hot line up and running.
Allmark said the recall was troubling because Fisher-Price has had a long-standing relationship with the Chinese vendor, which had applied decorative paint to the toys. Allmark said the company would use this recall as an opportunity to put even better systems in place to monitor vendors whose conduct does not meet Mattel's standards.
He added: "We are still concluding the investigation, how it happened ... But there will be a dramatic investigation on how this happened. We will learn from this."
"Anytime a company brings a banned hazardous product into the U.S. marketplace, especially one intended for children, it is unacceptable," said Nancy Nord, acting chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Ensuring that Chinese-made toys are safe for U.S. consumers is one of my highest priorities and is the subject of vital talks currently in place between CPSC and the Chinese government."
Owners of a recalled toy can exchange it for a voucher for another product of the same value.