The FBI and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are investigating nationwide sales of hundreds of fake Cabbage Patch dolls that "stink like kerosene" to determine whether they constitute a fire hazard or are toxic.
The CPSC has not received any reports of injuries or deaths but has gotten about 2,000 calls from parents concerned about the safety of the dolls, commission officials said.
Most of the concern has been prompted by the dolls' kerosene-like odor. Despite the odor, the CPSC said it has not yet found any hazardously flammable dolls. Tests are continuing, however.
The counterfeit dolls, which look almost identical to the authentic Cabbage Patch Kids, are being sold at flea markets and by street vendors, the FBI said.
"We're not sure how many different replicas or how many different manufacturing sources we're dealing with," said FBI Special Agent Henry Glaspie in Detroit, where 5,000 of the kerosene-smelling dolls were confiscated last week.
The kerosene-like odor might be caused by fumigation of the dolls, most of which are imported, a CPSC spokesman said. "They're coming into different ports all over the country."
The FBI said it is trying to determine if federal trademark or copyright laws are being violated with the sale of the Cabbage Patch dolls. Both the FBI and the CPSC are examining the toys in their laboratories to see if the dolls' stuffing contains kerosene and whether it is toxic or excessively flammable.
One state laboratory has detected a trace of what the FBI believes to be "an unknown pesticide which, if ingested, could prove to be injurious to one's health," said the FBI's Glaspie. But the CPSC said yesterday that, "Thus far, no hazardously flammable dolls have been found nor have any hazards been confirmed based on odor complaints. While the dolls and components will burn, the characteristics and rate of burn observed do not rise to the level of a risk of substantial personal injury."
Some of the bogus dolls are being sold under the name "Patch Kids," although some are called "Cabbage Patch Kids" -- the official name of the copied product -- on the toy's so-called birth certificates, an FBI official said. Some of the fake dolls are in plastic bags marked "made in Taiwan," he added. They are sold for approximately $10, substantially less than the price for authentic Cabbage Patch Kids, which ranges from $30 to $60.
The authentic Cabbage Patch doll made by Coleco Industries Inc. of West Hartford, Conn., has the words "Original Appalachian Artworks Inc., 1978, 1982," below the doll's hairline, said Coleco spokeswoman Barbara Wruck. Below that, many of the authentic dolls will be marked "Made in Hong Kong."