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Toy recalls concern parents

Just one day after Mattel Inc. recalled millions of Chinese-made toys, Northland residents were sorting through their toy boxes for the recalled items.

Just one day after Mattel Inc. recalled millions of Chinese-made toys, Northland residents were sorting through their toy boxes for the recalled items.

"It is disappointing because Mattel is the first name you think you can trust in toys," said Kathy Ponder, head of school at Summit School in Duluth. Summit School is a private school that provides care and education for children ranging from infants to fourth-graders.

Ponder said she spent several hours taking inventory of the school's toys earlier this month when Mattel Inc. announced its first recall. Many of those products were the popular Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer toys.

"We have a lot of toys, so it took a lot of time," Ponder said. "But when a parent asks me about it, I can absolutely, positively tell them that there is not a toy that their child came in contact with" that contains lead paint.

That is, at least not that she knows of.

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Many of the local child care centers contacted Wednesday said they didn't have many of the toys that were recalled Tuesday because the pieces were small and presented a choking hazard for younger children.

Instead, some child care centers are providing parents with the recall information.

"I am starting to get the lists out to our families because that's where I am concerned," said Jennifer Johnson, director of UMD Children's Place, which provides full-time care for 42 children and serves UMD faculty and students as well as the public.

"[The children] might have these toys at home," Johnson said.

That is not necessarily the case. Most parents that were contacted by the News Tribune on Wednesday had not been affected by the recall.

"I looked online to see what was recalled," Julie Jarvi of Eveleth said Wednesday while shopping. She has two young children and didn't have any of the defective toys. But that doesn't mean she isn't concerned.

"It's kind of scary, especially since now they have done another recall," she said.

Kristen Weber feels the same way. She was shopping with her 2½-year-old daughter, Nikki, and said she is definitely more "skeptical" about Mattel Inc. products.

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"[Nikki] is not getting Dora today [because of the recall], even though she really wants her," Weber said.

Since November, Mattel has recalled more than 22.5 million toys in three separate recalls.

The two most recent recalls involved toys that have either excess amounts of lead in the paint or tiny magnets that could be swallowed. In the case of lead, ingestion can cause growth retardation, neurological problems and even death. With the magnets, the concern is that if two or more are swallowed they could attempt to connect with each other in the body, cutting through tissue.

Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, recommended that parents whose children had one of the toys should call their pediatrician and have their child tested for lead in their bloodstream.

"If you're a parent and you have one of the toys, you should be worried," she said.

She also advised parents to watch their children for flu-like symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea and lethargy.

"If your child has any of these symptoms, take them to a doctor immediately," Davis said.

While large chain stores in the area removed the recalled items from their shelves, smaller area stores that the News Tribune checked with have not been affected by the recall.

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At Toys for Keeps in Canal Park, store owner and manager Cindy McCabe said she didn't have any of the toys recalled Tuesday or earlier this month. But she did have to pull about $1,000 worth of retail inventory off the shelves in June when some Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys were recalled. They were recalled for lead paint, according to maker RC2 Corp.'s Web site.

Ken Weyenberg, owner of Explorations on Superior Street, had the same experience.

"We don't have anything that has been recalled [this time]," said Weyenberg, although Explorations did carry Thomas & Friends wooden railway toys before they were recalled.

Now, McCabe said about one-tenth of the parents who come in express concern about the toys, saying they no longer want to buy products from China. But McCabe said that would be very difficult to do.

"There are so many toys from there," she said. "Even toys that are designed elsewhere are often imported from China."

Weyenberg agrees. "Toys, in general, most of them are made in China."

To learn more

-- For a list of recalled toys, go to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html .

-- If you're concerned about other toys in your home containing lead, Home Depot carries a lead test kit, made by Homax, which sells for $5.97. Another option is the Pro-Lab test, found at Ace Hardware. It sells for $9.99-$10.99, with an additional $20 fee for lab tests.

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