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Testimony on toys points to China

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- Mattel Chief Executive Robert Eckert said yesterday that the toy company has upgraded its methods to keep toys safe from excess lead, and he pointed to overseas contractors as the source of recent problems that have prompted it to announce three recalls affecting more than 20 million toys.

"We were let down, and we let you down," Eckert said in testimony to a Senate subcommittee. "We are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again."

Eckert appeared at a hearing in which the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Chinese regulators had agreed to stop U.S. exports of all toys containing lead.

But lawmakers expressed skepticism about Chinese declarations, and a consumer advocate maintained that stricter enforcement policies are necessary to protect children.

Concerns over toy safety have soared recently amid the Mattel recalls of Chinese-made toys believed to have excessive levels of lead paint and other problems.

The recalls have prompted a political outcry, along with scrutiny of Mattel's safety oversight procedures and questions about the effectiveness of U.S. regulators.

Yesterday, lawmakers said weak regulation, caused in part by a sharp decline in the size of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, was part of the problem.

"The events of the last four months have shown us the dangers lax authority and limited resources pose to our children," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the panel.

"We're here today to address the problem."

Jonathan Peterson writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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