Prompted by Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, officials at Dollar Tree Stores Inc. on Wednesday announced plans to remove two toys featuring magnets from its nearly 3,300 stores and put orders for more of the toys on hold pending an internal investigation.
"We want to do the right thing," said John Deal, corporate counsel for the Virginia-based company.
Mattel Inc., but that the company decided, "We don't want any of our customers confused by the situation. We would like to do some further investigation into it."
Deal said that the company had sold millions of the two toys in the past five years and is unaware of injuries involving either toy.
Earlier this month, Madigan sent letters to Dollar Tree and Florida toy firm Ja-Ru Inc. asking the companies to remove toys with tiny rare-earth magnets. Ja-Ru, which markets the Magnet Magic Linkz toy, did not respond, said Cara Smith, Madigan's deputy chief of staff for policy and communication.
Madigan also called upon the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to classify rare-earth magnets -- which are made of strong natural materials, as a "banned hazardous product" when used in children's toys. The agency has not responded, Smith said.
A Tribune investigation, published in May, uncovered red flags the federal safety agency missed about popular Magnetix toys shedding the magnets -- warnings that presaged the death of a suburban Seattle toddler and serious intestinal injuries to more than two dozen other children.
Deal replied to Madigan's initial request to remove the toys from store shelves by saying that the toys sold at Dollar Tree stores do not contain rare-earth magnets, but rather less powerful magnets.
"While we believe the toys to be safe based upon years of past sales, as well as passing independent test reports, we believe we should subject our toys to further scrutiny," Deal said in his letter to Madigan. "We plan on having additional tests performed which will not only measure the durability of the toys ... but also the strength of the magnets used in these toys."
Madigan said, "What we are happy about is even though this taking place piecemeal, the manufacturers and distributors are finally getting the message that these magnets are dangerous, especially in the hands of children."