Attorneys general for Washington and 38 other states this week announced that they reached a $12 million settlement with Mattel, Inc., and its subsidiary, Fisher-Price, Inc., resolving a 16-month investigation into the events that resulted in the voluntary nationwide recall of nearly 2 million toys for excessive lead paint in 2007.
"Today's settlement with Mattel offers important safeguards for the health of our children and our environment, while creating a model of good business practices," said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
"Combined with new federal safety standards, this agreement gives us a much better chance of preventing dangerous toys from reaching store shelves – rather than hoping consumers learn of a recall," says Assistant Attorney General Jim Sugarman.
Washington will receive $241,558 from the settlement, which was filed this week in King County Superior Court. The agreement allows the state to use the money for consumer education, litigation or as a reimbursement of expenses.
Between Aug. 2 and Oct. 25, 2007, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled approximately 2 million Mattel and Fisher-Price toys manufactured in China.
In some cases, toys tested at more than 10,000 and 50,000 parts per million of lead. At the time of the recalls, the CPSC standard permitted for lead in accessible surface coatings was 600 parts per million.
The agreement reached by the states includes more stringent standards for materials used to make toys manufactured after Nov. 30, 2008. Since the attorneys general first contacted Mattel in August 2007, Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which calls for more stringent standards for lead in surface coatings and substrates starting in February 2009.
McKenna co-sponsored a May 2008 letter from attorneys general to Congress emphasizing the states' need for powers to enforce the new federal act. Congress added those powers, allowing states to enforce the rules and standards created by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Mattel has agreed to phase in more stringent standards ahead of the timelines provided by the federal act, to notify states if it confirms excessive lead in any of its products and to work with attorneys general to remedy any such violations. Under the agreement, Mattel must also keep and disclose accurate records regarding the source of the materials it uses on its toys and the tests performed on that material.
In April, Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the Children's Safe Products Act, a measure passed by the 2008 Legislature directing the Department of Ecology and the Department of Health to put strategies into place to protect Washington's children from harmful products. This statute was the first and most protective measure of its kind approved in the country.