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Kitty Pilarz, 48, has been in the hot seat since the lead-paint scandal hit Mattel division Fisher-Price. The company had long followed voluntary safety standards set by an industry group, but Pilarz has instituted new measures.

"It's a painful time for our organization. My job has always started at the beginning of the process, seeing sketches from the designer, but we are now strengthening the safety-check system. First, every batch of paint must be purchased only from a certified paint supplier. Paint must be tested for lead on every single production run or every two weeks, whichever comes first. Sample tests must be performed by our own laboratories or by laboratories certified by us.

We have also significantly increased the testing of products. A product can go through 50 different tension tests. And we are also increasing the number of random, unannounced inspections of vendors and subcontractors worldwide. Every week, requirements are being modified based on new data, and we are constantly adapting and learning."

A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.