Toymaker Schylling accused of knowingly selling lead paint-tainted toys; agrees to $200,000 penalty

Toymaker Schylling Associates, which makes classic toys including many with the Curious George and Thomas & Friends brands, was accused of knowingly selling tens of thousands of its products that had lead paint in violation of federal law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced.

Although the company denied it broke any federal laws in agreeing to the settlement, Schylling agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty. The toys were sold in 2001 through 2003 but were not reported to the government, as required by law, until 2007, when they were recalled.

"Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have a legal obligation to ensure that no banned products are introduced into or distributed in the U.S. marketplace, and to inform CPSC as soon as they become aware of information that must be reported under our laws," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a written statement. "We will continue to penalize companies that do not follow these basic requirements."

At the time of the recall, Schylling's president issued a statement saying the company's Chinese manufacturer reported a positive test for lead paint and assured him that tainted toys were not being shipped to the U.S. for distribution. He said the company was surprised to learn that testing in the U.S. showed the lead paint was on toys that had been sold. He didn't explain why the company didn't issue a recall when first learning of the positive test years earlier or why it wasn't reported to the CPSC.

U.S. consumer product safety laws largely rely on companies to police themselves, using the threat of penalties such as this as leverage to keep them honest.

A limit was set in 1978 of how much lead could be in toys and children's products -- which was dramatically lowered last year -- due to concerns about the health of young children who suck on or chew on them.

According to the CPSC, these allegations are now resolved:

• Schylling imported and sold as many as 66,000 units of spinning tops with Thomas and Friends, Curious George and Circus images in 2001 and 2002 even though they contained illegal amounts of lead paint.
• The company imported and sold up to 10,200 lead-painted tin pails in 2002, including some Thomas and Friends and Curious George images.
• Schylling imported and sold up to 3,600 Winnie-the-Pooh spinning tops in 2003 that contained illegal amounts of lead paint.
• And, that despite reporting the problem to the CPSC in 2007, Schylling should have known by 2002 that most of the toys violated the lead paint ban and should have been reported then.
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