Ty Fights Recall of Lead-Tainted Toys

January 23, 2008

Ty Inc., in a challenge of Illinois’ law governing lead in toys, is refusing to pull a popular, but tainted, doll from store shelves across the state.
Illinois authorities thought they had agreed last December with Ty to have the company voluntarily remove its Jammin’ Jenna dolls from retailers because the toys contained high amounts of lead. But an official in the attorney general’s office spotted the toy in several stores.

Westmont-based Ty, best known for its Beanie Babies, said it would no longer sell new versions of Jammin’ Jenna to Illinois retailers. But it refused to recall dolls already in stores, according to the state.
An option the state is considering is suing Ty to force the company to comply with state law.

“They sell very popular products that children love,” Cara Smith, an aide to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, told the Chicago Tribune. “It would be our expectation that they would step up and do what they can to make sure their products don’t contain lead.”

The state became aware of the lead in Jammin’ Jenna dolls after the Tribune tested the red vinyl shoes on three dolls, finding all three exceeded Illinois lead limits.

Smith said that soon after the Tribune published its results on the Jammin’ Jenna doll, Ty Inc. told state authorities it would stop distributing that particular Ty Girlz doll in Illinois and remove it from shelves. A few days later, Smith said, she spotted the doll still on sale in stores.

When the state called Ty Inc. for an explanation, Smith said, the company switched positions, saying it would not recall those already on shelves.

Scott Wehrs, Ty’s chief operating officer, declined to comment for this article.

Ty Inc. representatives have said the company is not violating state law because federal rules supersede it. While the state bans vinyl toys that exceed the 600 parts per million limit, federal law does not.

But both the state attorney general’s office and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission have said that the Illinois ban is valid because states can adopt their own rules where no federal law exists.

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