Consumer Testing Spurs Toy Recalls

The Times brings us the story of vigilant consumers who successfully drove regulatory agencies to yank dangerous toys from store shelves. We have argued, along with the CPSC, that consumer testing is an utter waste of time, but consumers who are willing to bring their suspicious toys to a professional lab are able to have a surprising impact.

Mr. Stone and his daughter Montana began their testing nine months ago after Montana heard news reports about lead in children’s jewelry. She asked her father about the safety of the jewelry she had received as favors at birthday parties.

Mr. Stone, 68, used a lead testing process that he usually uses on deer carcasses to test for bullets in New York. (It is illegal in some circumstances to shoot deer with guns rather than bow and arrow.)

Mr. Stone found that more than half of his daughter’s jewelry tested positive. Soon, the Stones bought 75 more pieces of jewelry in stores near their home in Albany. Of those, 56 pieces contained more than 0.06 percent lead, the federal limit, and some were half lead, Mr. Stone said, adding that he plans to continue testing children’s jewelry even after the recall.

Mr. Stone works in an agency of New York state government unrelated to the attorney general, but he took his test results to Mr. Cuomo’s office last February. Mr. Cuomo then started an investigation of children’s jewelry sold in the state, including additional testing.

If you do try to engage a government agency, don’t expect a fast response or a thank-you.

“As an individual, it’s like a voice screaming in the wilderness. It’s hard to be heard,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a nonprofit organization in Washington. “Bureaucracies are not really set up to listen to the public.”

Citizen Vigilance Leads to Toy Recalls [NYT]
(Photo: azrainman)