Manufacturer of recalled Mattel toys kills self
The head of a Chinese manufacturing firm at the center of a massive Mattel toy recall committed suicide over the weekend, Chinese media outlets reported Monday.
Zhang Shuhong, co-owner of Lee Der Industrial Co. Ltd., hanged himself at a warehouse Saturday, just days after Chinese authorities slapped a temporary export ban on the firm.
Lee Der manufactured all of the 967,000 U.S.-distributed toys recalled earlier this month by Mattel Inc, in addition to another nearly 600,000 distributed internationally. The El Segundo-based toy maker announced the recall after discovering the toys were decorated with paint containing excessive amounts of lead. The Fisher-Price-branded preschool toys included the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters.
Lead is known to cause nervous system damage, hearing loss, stunted growth, reduced IQ levels, and delayed development. It is considered highly dangerous to children under the age of 6, whose bodies are still developing. While it affects nearly every organ of the human body, it is especially toxic on the kidneys. The U.S. government banned lead-based paint in 1978, though it is still allowed for certain military and industrial applications.
In the wake of the recall, the $5.6 billion-a-year Mattel also announced it is reviewing all of its Chinese-contracted production, the source of 65 percent of its toys. The firm did not rule out finding new manufacturing sources for low-cost manufactured goods.
The recall is only the latest in a string of China-related product recalls or warnings, including a recall of Thomas & Friends toys from Asian stores last month, a U.S. ban on Chinese toothpaste earlier this year, and scares involving tainted cooking oil, diseased pork and pet food components. It was among the largest recalls in recent months involving Chinese products, which have come under fire globally for containing potentially dangerous high levels of chemicals and toxins.
The Chinese manufacturer of the Thomas & Friends toys, Hansheng Wood Products Factory, was also named with Lee Der in the export ban announced Thursday by the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, a Chinese government quality control watchdog.
Both firms were also ordered by the government agency to review their business practices and implement corrective changes.