Every time there’s a warning or recall over lead-tainted toys–and it hasn’t happened much this past year, but check out our archives from a couple of years ago–lots of people get up in arms about not being able to trust the government or big business. Well, one woman has bought herself an X-ray flourescence (XRF) analyzer and now hires her services out to worried families, reports the Washington Post. For a fee, she’ll come to your house, point her gun at your kids’ toys, your heirlooms, the fishtank, whatever you ask her to test, and then tell you whether you should throw it out.
Step back from the ledge, makers of lovingly hand-carved wooden dolls: the Consumer Product Safety Commission has lurched into action and tentatively agreed to exempt some materials and items from the lead-testing requirements in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
Thanks to big companies like Mattel, this may be the last Christmas season for a lot of handmade or custom toys from small businesses.
Most Presidential candidates could not care less about consumer protection, but several have taken a stand on one of the sexier consumer issues: toy safety. Let’s break down where they stand.
Well we’re glad that’s taken care of. Wait… the Toy Industry Association is a trade group, not a federal agency! At any rate, on February 1st the Toy Industry Association, a 500-member strong group, will “release a draft of tough new safety rules, which include a plan to require manufacturers to test toys for hazardous chemicals and defective designs.” According to CNN, the group is drafting the 3-point plan with at least the awareness, if not the help, of the CPSC, and it hopes to have the plan formally certified as the CPSC’s “new standard for toy safety.”
To pick up slack from the undersized/overwhelmed CPSC, states are stepping up to help increase toy safety locally. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois and California have been taking “aggressive measures,” from suing manufacturers to escalating state recalls to the federal level. Newsday describes how New Jersey worked with charities and educators during toy drives to make them aware of recalled toys. The state also assigned 15 state inspectors to a toy safety task force, and over the past month, the inspectors “fanned out across the state with assistance from county health department workers to test products and check for recalled toys.
Today the House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Modernization Act of 2007, that virtually eliminates lead from children’s toys (down to 100 parts per million by 2012) and increases the funding of the CPSC. A Senate committee approved its own version of an anti-lead/pro-CPSC bill in October, but it hasn’t reached a floor vote yet—so sometime (early?) next year a final bill should be hammered out to send to the White House. Unless, of course, the lead toy furor disappears after Christmas.
Toy injuries were responsible for 22 deaths and 220,500 emergency room visits in 2006, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report looked at injuries affecting children under 15 and found that most deaths were caused by asphyxiation or collisions associated with riding toys, scooters, toy pegs, and rubber balls.
The CEO of Toys “R” Us tells the AP that all this testing of toys by advocacy groups is frustrating: “We’ve had many, many cases where we have taken the products and retested them and found them to be totally safe.” Stupid advocacy groups! The toy store will protect us! [Associated Press]
Yesterday Hasbro launched a new ad campaign in certain newspapers to promote its comparatively stellar safety record with toys—it hasn’t had any big ticket items show up in the lead-tainted parade this year (or to the date-rape afterparty) and it wants consumers to know.
Here’s something everyone can be thankful for—the Chinese, Europeans, and tangentially everyone in America and the rest of the world who have spent the better part of last year dodging lead bullets from the factory nation. The European Union’s consumer chief has said that China has made “quantum leaps” in improving its safety protocols, and will therefore not face a ban in the EU.
Worried that the whole tainted export thing might further poison their image, China this week revoked the export licenses of 750 toy factories citing quality control problems. The move came just as the Senate Commerce Committee passed the CPSC Reform Act, which would strengthen domestic toy safety standards and impose penalties of up to $100 million on companies that sell dangerous toys.
Despite the announcement of the license suspensions, Chinese regulators said 99 percent of toy exports in southern Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong, met quality standards.
Today is a big day for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Starting at 11am, the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will kick off a series of hearings examining the toy industry’s seemingly magnetic attraction to lead paint. Durbin, whose Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s budget, will grill toy industry representatives, consumer advocates, and members of the government over plans to protect America’s children from the dangers silently lurking on toy shelves by establishing an independent testing regime.