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U.S. firm fined $1.25M for importing Chinese lead-painted toys

Two of the five Thomas & Friends Wooden

Two of the five Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway products that were recalled because of unacceptable levels of lead in their paint. Among the recalled cars are Toad, left, and a black cargo car. The toys were imported from China and sold by RC2 Corp. of Illinois. Credit: AP, September 2007

WASHINGTON -  An Illinois firm agreed to pay a $1.25 million settlement for importing and selling Thomas & Friends children's toys that contained lead levels above legal limits considered dangerous to children's health.

In agreeing to the penalty settlement, RC2 Corp. denied that it knowingly violated federal law as alleged by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency said in a statement Monday evening.

The commission, which provisionally accepted the settlement, charged that RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill., and one of its subsidiaries, Learning Curve Brands Inc., knowingly imported and sold Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys that had "paints or other surface coatings" containing lead levels above .06 percent by weight. That level violated a 1978 lead paint ban on toys.

The toys were imported from China.

"This failure created a risk of lead poisoning and adverse health effects to children," the commission said in a statement.

From May through September 2007, RC2 reported that more than two dozen styles of vehicles, buildings and other train set components were found to contain lead levels that violated the 1978 ban.

That amounted to some 1.7 million units sold that were later recalled between June and September of that year, according to the CPSC.

The recalls got Congress' attention.

In 2008, lawmakers passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which lowered the legal lead levels of toys to .0009 percent by weight and took effect on Aug. 14.

RC2 Corp. sells toys through more than 25,000 retail outlets primarily in North America, Europe and Asia, according to its Web site. It is a publicly traded company listed ast RCRC on the NASDAQ.

Its infant, toddler and preschool products are marketed under its Learning Curve brands, including Lamaze, The First Years and licensed properties such as Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Winnie the Pooh.

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