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KAI RYSSDAL: We have, if I’ve got my math right, something like 172 shopping days left until Christmas. Fact of the matter is, though, that most of what we’ll be buying five-and-a-half months from now is already on its way to store shelves. Tucked inside container ships steaming over from China. And that’s turning out to be something of a problem. Because, increasingly the word that’s associated with Chinese imports is recall. Marketplace’s Amy Scott has more.
AMY SCOTT: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled more than two dozen Chinese-made toys so far this year. Many of them contain dangerous levels of lead. Officials recalled the Mag Stix Building Set when an 8-year-old was hospitalized after swallowing loose magnets.
Bob Glenn is president of the toy’s U.S. distributor, Kipp Brothers. The company sent letters to its customers warning about the toys even before the official recall.
Bob GLENN: You know, it’s a tough thing. The public wants cheap toys, and they want cheap everything, and it’s hard to get a lot of quality in a 4-cent toy.
The toy lobby is gearing up a new PR campaign to convince consumers its products are safe. Carter Keithley is president of the Toy Industry Association.
Carter KEITHLEY: We want to do everything we can do reassure consumers that, you know, in 99.9 cases out of 100 they have nothing to worry about. We bring something like 3 billion toys a year into the United States market from China. And so something like this is just extremely unusual.
But how unusual is it? Kipp Brothers’ Bob Glenn is concerned enough about lead paint that he’s started testing his toys after they arrived from the manufacturer.
GLENN: So we’ve had situations where we have tested samples and the samples were fine. And when we received them, we tested them again and they had lead.
Other retailers are stepping up their safety measures. Toys R Us has reportedly hired two executives to oversee products coming from China.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.