Furor as RC2 Corp recalls Thomas the Tank Engine trains

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 10

The toy maker RC2 Corp pulled a number of its "Thomas and Friends" trains and accessory parts off the shelves on Thursday after learning that the red and yellow paint used to decorate more than 1.5 million of the toys contained lead.

Lead, if ingested by children, can cause long-term neurological problems that affect learning and behavior.

"Parents should not delay in getting these toys away from their kids," Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said on Thursday.

An alert posted at the Web site www.totallythomas.com included a list of more than two dozen items affected by the recall. The company noted that toys that bear a code containing a "WJ" or "AZ" on the bottom of the toy or the inside of the battery door are not included in the recall.

The company at first urged consumers to mail in their Thomas toys, at their expense, in exchange for a replacement and a free train, an offer that angered some consumers.

Many Thomas the Tank Engine fans have collected dozens of trains, boxcars or railroad stations, and shipping several heavy pieces could quickly become expensive. Later on Thursday, the company, which is based in Oak Brook, Illinois, agreed to handle the shipping cost for all consumers who request it.

The affected Thomas toys were manufactured in China, which has come under fire recently for exporting a variety of goods, from pet food to toothpaste, that may pose safety or health hazards.

"These are not cheap, plastic McDonald's toys," said Marian Goldstein of Maplewood, New Jersey, who spent more than US$1,000 on her son's Thomas collection, for toys that can cost US$10 to US$70 apiece.

"But these are what is supposed to be a high-quality children's toy," she said.

Goldstein's four-year-old son owns more than 40 pieces from the Thomas series, and seven of them were on the recall list, including the Sodor deluxe fire station, a 30cm-long piece that is a little heavier than the average train.

Goldstein said she wondered who would pay for testing her son for lead poisoning if her insurance did not cover it.