Mattel: A Few Kids Will Combust While Using Our Products

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Mattel's special way of dealing with safety concerns (blaming China, your lead-hungry children) has brought increased scrutiny on the company's recall record.
If your children avoided lead poisoning from Mattel products, another hazard they might have to contend with is spontaneous combustion. Children bursting into flames used to be so simple - take the rollerblading Barbie recalled in the 90s that was pretty much a lighter with ambiguous plastic genitalia. The thing at least required some deliberate motion to create a spark, so it was easy to blame the pyromaniac little girls in the burn ward for inappropriately using the product, by using it at all.
Old Power Wheels mini-motor vehicles, on the other hand, occasionally burst into flames. Mattel issued a Power Wheels recall in 1998, despite the fact that the product was implicated in over 1,800 incidents of electrical problems and slightly charred offspring. The company recalled about 10 million units, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission contends that Mattel significantly stalled its recall.
Mattel nobly points to the law of large numbers, claiming that since the company sells so many products, a few of them are bound to burst into flames. Mattel also argues that it makes a lot of toys, so some of them are bound to be miniature death machines. And there’s always “inappropriate use,” don’t forget about “inappropriate use.” If little Timmy wants to be a Power Wheel mechanic, he doesn’t deserve the skin that needed graft replacements. The Consumer Products Safety Commission responds, from the Wall Street Journal:

But Thomas H. Moore, the longest serving member of the commission, has said that's not an appropriate attitude for products that can create a clear-cut danger when they break down. "Businesses know the difference between harmless failure and hazardous failure," Mr. Moore said in a statement posted on commission's Web site.

Mattel cites the especial care a child must take with “ride-on toys,” citing the example of the Spinning Blades Pogo-Ball and Medieval Mace Skip-It that were initially considered to be unsafe.
Mattel Takes a Combative Stance Defending Power Wheels Safety [Wall Street Journal]

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