Parents were searching their homes for children's hockey sticks and sports stores were pulling 13 models off the shelves after a random product test by Health Canada led to a massive recall of sticks because of high levels of lead paint.
Bauer Hockey, one of the largest makers of sports equipment, recalled 100,000 sticks worldwide, including 67,000 in Canada.
The company's chief executive officer, Kevin Davis, admitting that its safety system had cracks.
"We had what we thought were some very robust protocols against this. For these 13 models ... the system wasn't as strong as it needed to be," he said in an interview Thursday.
After testing a junior stick - the Nike Bauer Supreme One50 - from a Vancouver store, Health Canada discovered the yellow paint contained a lead level of 23,000 milligrams per kilogram, about four times above the allowable limit. Subsequent tests over a three-week period by Bauer on its remaining 200 models of children's sticks revealed that 12 others, made in a Chinese facility, were above the allowed lead limit.
The move by Health Canada is the latest in a series of recalls involving lead paint. Many of the recalls have involved toys made in China. One of the most high-profile ones involved Mattel Inc., the world's largest toy manufacturer, which recalled more than 21 million toys three years ago, citing concerns about lead paint and small magnets children might swallow.
Lead, a highly toxic substance, is particularly harmful to children when ingested, and even low levels of lead exposure over time can lead to neurological damage and affect a child's intellectual development. The mere presence of lead doesn't made products unsafe, Health Canada said. Rather, the risk increases when sucking, chewing or eating bits of children's toys and other products that have lead paint.
The federal government agency conducts random testing of consumer products used by children to make sure companies are complying with Canadian requirements. In this instance, Health Canada was not specifically testing hockey sticks, but rather a variety of children's products. It informed Bauer in mid-February of the one stick, and the company began testing all its junior and youth model sticks made since 2004, when the company began manufacturing its products in China.
Health Canada and Bauer have not received any reports of illnesses related to the use of the hockey sticks. The company manufactures and sells about one million hockey sticks a year.
Stores were informed Thursday of the recall. Dave Beaton, senior store manager at Just Hockey in Toronto, said the only recalled products he had in his store were three of the Supreme One50 sticks for $49, and six of Nike Bauer Supreme One90 youth and junior stick for $89.
"Within minutes of finding it out this morning, I'm having the information printed out. I'm trying not to overreact, but I'm trying to print out the customers information, giving it to the cashier, asking her to call them," Mr. Beaton said. "One stick that's out there that shouldn't be out there, that's one too many."
He said later parents were happy to get the call and were checking their homes to find the hockey sticks.
Mr. Davis said the paint and decals on all the sticks have a clear coat on top, and that met standards. The paint underneath did not.
Bauer said it has identified all the raw materials that were the source of this recall and it has initiated an independent third-party testing protocol for all its products. It has also promised to send a brand new elite-level stick to those Canadians who return one of the 13 models of junior sticks.
All, except one of the models on the recall list, were manufactured prior to 2008, so most are already in the hands of customers.
"Some of these models are relatively old. So our expectation is that these are out somewhere in the hands of consumers and we're encouraging consumers to pick up the phone and call our customer service line," Mr. Davis said.
Reebok-CCM Hockey, another large maker of sports equipment, could not be reached for comment on its own testing program Thursday.
What's been recalled
Most of the sticks are older models: Twelve of them were manufactured prior to 2008.
Consumers are being advised to stop using the sticks immediately and call Bauer Hockey at 1-888-734-0443 for a replacement.
The specific models currently under recall are:
- Nike Bauer Supreme One90 youth and junior stick, including shafts and replacement blades
- Nike Bauer Supreme Junior One50 junior stick, including shafts and replacement blades
- Nike Bauer Supreme One40 junior stick
- Nike Bauer Supreme One70 junior stick
- Nike Bauer/Bauer Supreme One75 junior player and goalie stick
- Nike Bauer/Bauer Vapor XX junior player and goalie stick
- Nike Bauer Supreme LTX junior stick.
- Nike Bauer Apollo junior stick
- Nike Quest Apollo junior blade
- Nike Bauer Supreme Force junior stick
- Nike Bauer Vapor XVI junior stick
- Nike Bauer Vapor XXX Lite "Woody" junior stick
- Nike Bauer Supreme Accel junior stick