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If you've got a preschooler, it's likely that he/she has a Thomas train lying around. If so, this is one recall notice you're not going to want to miss.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the maker of Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys have recalled 1.5 million Thomas products because they contain lead paint, a product that has been banned in the U.S. since the 1970s. The trains, buildings and other railway accessories were manufactured in China from January 2005 through June 2007. According to the CPSC, the factory in China changed to using a new lead-containing paint during this time period, so, older Thomas trains are not the same hazard as these newer trains.

Thomas's distributor, RC2 of Oak Brook, Ill., says it will replace the recalled toys with another Thomas toy. Information on ordering replacement toys is available on RC2's Web site. The manufacturer will replace toys with identical non-lead paint versions if they are available. For those products that have been discontinued, the manufacturer will replace the product with a similar item of equal value.

The Thomas trains are part of a string of toy recalls involving Chinese manufacturers. According to CPSC spokesperson Patty Davis, about half of the CPSC recalls last year -- all products, not just for kids -- involved products made in China. A check today on CPSC's Web site of the full list of toy recalls shows that nearly all toy recalls issued this year by the CPSC were for products made in China. The handful of products not manufactured in China were made in Hong Kong.

According to CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson, the U.S. safety agency has been working with the Chinese to improve their safety standards so that they manufacture products to both voluntary and mandatory U.S. standards. In fact, Acting Chairman Nancy Nord spent time in Beijing in May working with the main Chinese safety agency. Those talks are continuing; Chinese safety officials are heading to the U.S. for follow-up meetings this fall, says Wolfson.

Does this make you rethink owning toys made in China?

Updated by Stacey Garfinkle at 5:15 p.m.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 13, 2007; 2:47 PM ET  | Category:  Recalls
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Comments


It's just part of the Republican pro-business, screw-the-consumer way of dealing with anything and everything. The government doesn't bother to regulate much coming out of China and, due to business pressures and the potential for huge profits in China, the Bush administration is not interested in increasing its regulation of products from China. This is the phenomenon that was seen in the animal food recall. A dangerous chemical was added to the animal food and this chemical even made it in to the human food supply chain via chicken feed.

Why should a Communist country like China care about making safe products when it doesn't have to answer to its own people, let alone us? Answer: It doesn't care.

Posted by: Ryan | June 13, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I challenge everyone to walk into a toy store and find 5 items not made in China or Hong Kong. It's impossible.

We've been trying to cut back on purchasing things made in China for many reasons--product safety, workers rights abuses including the use of prison labor, the environmental cost of moving goods across the world, etc. I would be wearing only Lucky jeans and American Apparel shirts if I eliminated all Chinese goods, and my children would have only sticks to play with.

Posted by: seattle | June 13, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

We have been trying to cut out Chinese toys (and plastic toys more generally), but we have not been able to keep to that 100%. Also, most of our Thomas trains are not that recent. In fact, our son got his first Thomas trains in December 2004--so almost everything could be in the time range given for the recall.

I am trying very hard not to flip out right now and to figure out how I can get a lead test for my son. These are his favorite toys and he has played with them a lot over the past two-and-a-half years.

Posted by: Mouse | June 13, 2007 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Sooo...my whole policy of not having plastic or metal toys in the house seems to make a lot more sense now.

My 4-year-old has a drum kit, a grip of stuffed animals, and a lot of outdoor toys (jump rope, bouncy ball, sidewalk chalk). I prefer her use her imagination than have the toy companies imagine stuff at her, but now I have another level to be smug about.

Posted by: Kat | June 14, 2007 1:22 AM | Report abuse

There are still toys manufactured in the US, Little Tikes (Hudson, Ohio) is one example. However, they may be shipped overseas so get them while you can and try to keep another American company in the states.

Posted by: to seattle | June 14, 2007 6:43 AM | Report abuse

"Sooo...my whole policy of not having plastic or metal toys in the house seems to make a lot more sense now."

Right... except for the fact that the recall is for WOOD trains.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2007 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Let's not be so smug, please. For one thing, Thomas trains are made from wood, not metal or plastic. Second, these trains and others like them allow kids to use their imaginations, work on fine motor skills, and also hone their spatial awarenes. Both of my children can look at a pile of train track and envision how the pieces should be connected to cover our basement in a complex layout. These aren't the cheesy toys that I wish my kids hadn't received for their birthdays. We've made a point of accumulating trains and track rather than what I consider junk toys because of the quality of play that comes with the trains. What about Legos? Do you allow them in your house?

Posted by: Katie | June 14, 2007 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Actually I just bought my friend's kid a whole Thomas the Train set. Luckily it was the metal kind and not the wooden kind. BTW, I got a whole Thomas the train set from Toys R Us (metal or plastic-I forget now) for $50. It was a 161 pieces and included the tracks, 10 cars and all the other stuff (bridges and stuff). It was motorized but I guess there is no rule that you have to plug it in. I am sure you could just push it like the wooden ones. I like the wooden ones a lot because of their high imagination and low tech quality. But for $50, I wasn't going to find a better deal. Plus she got a complete set for her son. So she doesn't have to buy more. One thing I dislike about the wooden ones, is everything is sold separately. So after you purchased all the pieces, you spent a fortune. I just would throw this idea out for parents who want to purchase Thomas at a discount. Also so far, no recall on this set. I have 3 year old daughter who talks about trains but is not really into Thomas. So she has some cheap generic wooden train set that satisfies her.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 14, 2007 7:49 AM | Report abuse

To Mouse: You can get a lead test at your pediatrician. It used to be required for all kids but now only in certain jurisdictions but any pediatrician can do it.

We have a Thomas set too - great imaginative toy, very creative. Craigslist is a great place to get gently used, inexpensive sets - we got a table for only $50. As far as the lead, I would think that even if you have one of these products if the paint is not chipped and the child did not put it in their mouth, they are likely fine. Any one on this blog knowledgeable about this?

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | June 14, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

FYI, one toy with a bit of lead paint is really unlikely to hurt a child, even if he eats the paint chips. The danger of lead of levels building up in a child's body, which can cause various problems. This isn't really worth a freak-out. Think of the people who live in Picher, Oklahoma, who are surrounded by lead and industrial waste and can't get out because their land and houses aren't worth anything to sell. Even those children's blood-lead levels are not much higher than "normal," and they are exposed to it every day.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

An aside-- I found a great new parenting site I wanted to share.

The Greenhour--ideas & a community dedicated to getting kids outdoors more.

www.greenhour.org

Posted by: Liz | June 14, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

It definitely makes me want to buy American. If only I could find some things made in America....

Posted by: m | June 14, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

LOVE THE Greenhour website!!!! Thanks for sharing it!!!

Posted by: cj | June 14, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone gotten the replacement form to download from the recall site? I'm thinking that perhaps it's just overloaded right now with people trying to get the form?

We only have one of the recalled trains, and I'm much less worried about this than the paint in the house we used to rent in S. Arlington.

Posted by: kdh | June 14, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

It's silly to blame this on China, and turn it into a question of nationalism. The company is American and listed on NASDAQ! Unless the lead paint was a conspiracy sponsored by the Chinese government with the goal of poisoning the youth of America through toys, try a different, valid argument to express your upset.

Posted by: G Man | June 14, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

kdh: I've been able to download and save the form. Send your e-mail address to parenting@washingtonpost.com and I'll e-mail it to you. RC2's Web site does mention that you need the latest version of Acrobat to see the form. Don't know if that's why you're having problems.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | June 14, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

All these product recalls from China remind me that the United States had a number of problems along the same lines when it was developing itself as a commercial power.

The rise of muckrakers like Upton Sinclair happened as a response, and it is a pity that China has not yet developed a sufficiently robust press to bring these issues out into the open. I am sure the Chinese people also suffer from the same bad products that Americans do, but exposure is minimal compared to the United States which has a much broader tradition of vigilance in the protection of consumers.

Not to say it couldn't get better.

Posted by: David S | June 14, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

our son routinely plays with Thomas and I'm sure many of the trains has the tainted paint. He has been tested for lead repeatedly since we live in a house with lead paint and he has never had a detectable trace of lead. Yay! so we will try to get the refund or whatever, but to those of you with kids that play with Thomas, don't be too worried.

I am FURIOUS that these are EXPENSIVE toys and yet they still have tainted paint! These little trains cost almost $20 a piece right? And they can't guarantee safety at that cost?

Having Alec Baldwin as the "voice" of the Thomas series, and now this? I'm glad I'm not the spokesperson for Thomas & Friends!

Posted by: Jen S. | June 14, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know why Thomas the trains are so expensive? They don't seem that much better quality compared to other wooden trains. I am glad they came out with metal and plastic ones that are cheaper. At least there are alternatives.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 14, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Not buy products from China because of a toy recall?

We had actual food poisoning outbreak from home grown vegetables- should we stop buying those also?

Posted by: Liz D | June 14, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Do people know that the trains in question were wooden? they were. they were not plastic.

Posted by: DCer | June 14, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know why Thomas the trains are so expensive?
---

umm... licensing?

that's self-explanatory.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

We don't have Legos in the house, no. She has wood (branded, not painted) blocks, and she's learning to fold paper into shapes. Also, we have a lot of sand toys, but again, not for in the house. She loves constructing sand structures.

When I was in a choir at school, we went to an Orthodox house for Shabbat, and the entire floor was covered with legos. I was so afraid of cracking one under my shoes that the child might walk or crawl on later! Our house is a shoe-free house, which makes it more important to keep small sharp pieces of plastic from underfoot.

Posted by: Kat | June 14, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The form downloaded now, thanks for offering to email it!

Posted by: kdh | June 14, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Heh, my mom threatened to give her grandkids tons of tinky toys so that my sister would have to deal with the torture of them all underfoot like she did.

Posted by: Liz D | June 14, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Hey, those of you who are comparing the U.S. and China, you're forgetting a crucial thing: The U.S. has a democracy that can respond to the desires and uproar of the people. China is a totalitarian regime that has no incentive whatsoever to do things in a better way. Whoever made the comment that China had not yet developed a sufficiently robust press is completely out of touch. It's not that their press hasn't "developed" enough yet -- they don't HAVE freedom of the press. Journalists are imprisoned, political prisoners are put to death, and China marches on. Jeez, do you guys never read the news? Are you really that ignorant of China?

Posted by: Ryan | June 15, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

"I would think that even if you have one of these products if the paint is not chipped and the child did not put it in their mouth, they are likely fine. Any one on this blog knowledgeable about this?"

I might count as knowledgable, since I worked at the CPSC for over six years. Lead is mostly a problem when the child chews on the item; however, if the child is a thumb sucker, or otherwise puts his or her hands to the mouth a lot, there is a risk of ingesting lead that has rubbed off onto the hands.

while I'm at it - be very cautious of necklaces for children. *many* of them are made with lead, and many girls will chew/suck on the necklace charm. Heck, I'm well over 30 and have still be known to do so on occasion.

Posted by: former cpsc-er | June 18, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The chinese are the low-cost producer because they cut every conceivable corner. Their products are dangerous in ways that are not merely reflected by the low quality and tendency to use toxic inputs because they are cheaper. Whenever you buy Chinese-made products (regardless of where the company is located, their manufacturing or their input sourcing is highly likely to be in China these days) you run a risk. Pure and simple. The hard part is even figuring out where something was made these days -- or, if it was made here, if it was made with a giant vat of Chinese "glycerine," "wheat gluten," "rice protein," or any of the other adulterated products, falsely marked, that have turned up recently.

Genuinely, I fall in the pool that are less concerned about one wooden train with lead paint (because mine are finally big enough that they aren't chewing on things). But it is systemic at this point - that is what worries me.

Posted by: bad mommy | June 18, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

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