Robert Manor and Eric Benderoff, The Chicago Tribune, Business

Companies under fire for importing lead-contaminated toys revealed in
letters made public Tuesday that it can take the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission a month or longer to announce the recall of a
dangerous item after the agency is notified of the problem.

The letters were made public in advance of two days of hearings
scheduled by the subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce starting Wednesday. Legislators, among them Rep. Bobby Rush
(D-Chicago), are looking into this year's recall of millions of
lead-contaminated toys and children's products, most of them made in

Kevin Dumphy, the manager of Spandrel Sales & Marketing of Tempe,
Ariz., said in a letter to the subcommittee that he contacted the CPSC
on March 29. He said he told the agency that a home lead test his
company conducted showed high amounts of the toxic metal in children's
necklaces, bracelets and rings Spandrel imported from China.

"The CPSC was contacted as soon as we realized the problem," Dumphy wrote.

Yet the agency did not announce the recall until May 15, six weeks later.

Dumphy declined a request for comment.

Consumer advocates say a six-week delay is nothing unusual.

"It can take a lot longer than that," said Charles Margulis,
communications director for the Center for Environmental Health in
Oakland. A representative for the center is to testify before the
subcommittee about alleged shortcomings in the operation of the CPSC.

Margulis said that in April 2005 his organization notified the CPSC
that a brand of toy bracelets contained 275 times the legal limit of
lead permitted. He said the CPSC did not announce the recall until
September of that year.

Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the CPSC, declined to comment on the letters.

Target Inc. discovered its Kool Toyz play set contained excessive lead
levels in September 2006. Target contacted the CPSC on Sept. 14. The
CPSC joined Target in announcing the recall on Nov. 15.

Another supplier, the Dallas-based Army and Air Force Exchange Service,
this year tested through a private lab the Invincibles Transport
Converters toy sets made by Hong Kong-based Toy Century. It received
results showing excessive lead levels on April 3 and reported the
findings to the CPSC on the same day, according to a letter from the

The CPSC announced the recall on May 23, more than a month after being notified of the problem.

Mattel Inc. said in its letter that the CPSC "discourages a premature
public announcement" before elaborate measures are in place.

Mattel said that before it could publicly announce the recall of a toy,
the agency required the company to set up a toll-free recall telephone
number staffed with operators using a CPSC-approved script, explore how
customers could be contacted by mail, prepare and send a CPSC-approved
notice of recall and posters for stores, and take other steps.

Only then could the recall be announced, Mattel said. No one at the company could be reached for comment.

Another company revealed in a letter that it identified additional
products that tested for illegal levels of lead and notified the CPSC,
but no recall has been announced.

Dollar General Corp., which recalled 396,000 key chains in April due to
excess lead levels, reported that it notified the CPSC on Aug. 24 of an
additional 192,000 key chains that contain illegal amounts of lead.

The CPSC has not issued any recall for those key chains.

But some companies noted in their letters that the CPSC discovered the
lead in their products because the companies weren't looking for lead

"Our main focus was on heavy concentration of lead in the metals and
not so much the lead in the paint. The reason being is that I, like
most other companies, thought the led [sic] paint no longer existed,"
wrote Daniel Paszkiewicz, president of Cardinal Distributing Co. in St.

Cardinal is a supplier of toys for vending machines and receives goods from a broker who buys from factories.

A second vending machine distributor, A&A Global Industries of
Timonium, Md., bought supplies from Krishna Beads, which A&A said
was based in Mumbai.

Both companies were notified by the CPSC of excessive lead levels in
the paint on toy jewelry after the government agency pulled products
for testing.

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