RC2 Corp., based in Oak Brook, IL, will pay a $1.25 million civil penalty for allegedly violating the federal ban on lead paint in children’s toys. The settlement resolves the allegations that RC2 corp. and its subsidiary Learning Curve Brands Inc. knowingly imported and sold toys with lead paint levels above the legal limit set in 1978. CPSC alleged that RC2 did not act to ensure that the toys would meet the lead paint standards, creating a risk of lead poisoning for children. In 2007, RC2 Corp. reported to CPSC that over two dozen styles of their Thomas & Friends toys contained paints with lead levels higher than the 0.06% limit, leading to a highly publicized recall of 1.7 million units. CPSC states that this is the second-highest civil penalty imposed on a toymaker.

The 2007 Thomas & Friends recall was a catalyst for Congressional action toward the new, stricter lead paint regulations of 0.009%, effective August 14, 2009, according to CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum. As part of the settlement, RC2 denies that it knowingly violated federal lead paint standards.

This past June, Mattel Inc. and its Fisher-Price unit received a fine of $2.3 million for importing and selling toys that exceeded the federal lead limits. While the lead paint provision of the CPSIA of 2008 creates stronger regulations to protect children from the danger of lead poisoning, parents and consumers need to remain alert to recalls for children’s toys with excessive lead.