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Mattel Inc. and its subsidiary, Fisher-Price, have agreed to pay $2.3 million in civil penalties to the United States for importing and selling toys with excessive levels of lead, and for violations of the federal lead paint ban. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has provisionally accepted the penalty settlement. The CPSC announced on June 5, 2009, that the toymakers had knowingly violated a 30 year-old ban on lead paint in toys. Both Mattel and Fisher-Price deny knowingly violating the ban.

In 2007, approximately 95 different Fisher-Price and Mattel toys were found to have excessivle levels of lead. Lead that is ingested by young children can result in lead-related illnesses.

Mattel reportedly imported as many as 900,000 toys in 2006 and 2007 that had excessive lead, including the "Sarge" toy car and Barbie accessories.

Fisher-Price is alleged to have imported up to 1.1 million such toys in the same years, including the Bongo Band, GEOTRAX locomotive, and Go Diego Go Rescue Boat toys.

The civil penalty agreed to by the toymakers is the highest ever for the "importation or distribution in commerce of a regulated product".

Unfortunately, in this writer’s opinion, this civil penalty, while a step in the right direction by the CPSC, and encouraging in that regard, is little more than a light slap on the wrist for Mattel and Fisher-Price. It is almost like paying a toll to proceed down the highway of profits over safety. This is further evidence for the argument to strengthen the CPSC’s enforcement arm, and against preemption of any sort for state tort claims made by those legitimately injured by these defective toys.

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