Nine companies will pay a combined total of more than $500,000 in penalties for selling toys and other children's products laced with toxic lead, settling claims by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The products included toys, jewelry, pens, water bottles, sunglasses and Halloween and Easter items.
That's the headline, as written by the CPSC. It's true. It sounds good. But how much does that mean these companies paid per toy they made, imported, distributed or sold to parents, who unwittingly gave these toxic products to their children?
In most cases, not much. Of course, these companies would have paid to recall, replace and refund the items, leading to a business lost, presumably (though we imagine many toys sold are never returned for a refund, even after a recall is announced). Hopefully, they've learned their lesson. Maybe they've been put out of business through the process. Probably not.
Lead exposure can lead to permanent brain damage, behavioral changes, learning disabilities and a variety of other health problems. How much should endangering children for a profit cost a company? The CPSC states that these companies knowingly trafficked in lead-laced toys.
The following firms were fined (Mattel and Fisher-Price were previously fined at a cost of $2.56 per toxic toy):
Cardinal Distributing Co. Inc., of Baltimore, Md.
$100,000 for importing 900,000 children's necklaces and charm bracelets made in India
Fine per toxic toy: 11 cents
Dollar General Corp., of Goodlettsville, Tenn.
$100,000 for importing 63,000 Frankenstein tumblers, 380,000 toy cars and 51,000 pairs of children's sunglasses made in China
Fine per toxic toy: 20 cents
Family Dollar Stores Inc., of Matthews, N.C.
$75,000 for importing 142,000 Halloween pails made in China
Fine per toxic toy: 53 cents
Michaels Stores Inc., of Irving, Texas
$45,000 for distributing 310,000 writing pens made in China
Fine per toxic toy: 15 cents
A&A Global Industries Inc., of Cockeysville, Md.
$40,000 for manufacturing 4 million bracelets made in China
Fine per toxic toy: 1 cent
Raymond Geddes & Co., of Baltimore, Md.
$40,000 for distributing 84,200 pencil case made in China
Fine per toxic children's product: 48 cents
Downeast Concepts Inc., of Yarmouth, Maine
$30,000 for distributing 18,000 water bottles
Fine per toxic product: $1.67
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