Fisher-Price Inc. and its parent company Mattel Inc. are recalling 1.5 million plastic toys worldwide that may contain hazardous levels of lead paint.
The 83 models of toys identified in the recall include popular characters such as Big Bird, Elmo, Dora the Explorer and Diego. Overall, 967,000 of those units are in America, while another 533,000 are in other countries, including Britain, Canada and Mexico.
These toys are manufactured by a ``Chinese vendor,'' a Fisher-Price spokeswoman said in an Aug. 2 telephone interview. She confirmed the hazard comes from the paint, not the plastic body.
Mattel said in a news release the Chinese contract manufacturer ``has had a good track record on product safety in the past.''
The company said it regards the use of lead paint as a serious mistake. Lead is toxic and can cause adverse health effects. Under current U.S. regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead are subject to a recall.
Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., refused to identify the vendor. It did not reveal whether the same company that painted the toys also molded them.
El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel, the world's largest toy maker, has its own plants with test labs in China. A July 26 New York Times story said about half of Mattel's toy sales comes from products made in those company-run plants in China, a more costly method than using the lowest-bidding local vendor.
The Chinese government responded quickly to this latest incident in a string of Chinese product-quality issues.
In an Aug. 2 statement, Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng called on the public and Western world not to suspect the overall quality of Chinese exports because of the problems of individual products. He also said the quality issues with exports are an extension of a problem in the Chinese domestic market.
The ministry has established a ``blacklist of exporters'' system and ``has to date penalized 429 companies,'' according to a Ministry of Commerce statement on its Web site.
The Fisher-Price brand officially entered China in June 2006, but the Chinese market is not affected by this recall.
Mattel said the use of nonapproved paint pigment was detected in an internal probe, and it is reviewing procedures with all its products manufactured by vendors in China.