CPSC Delays Lead Testing Of Toys For The Second Time

For the second time in one year, a delay on third-party lead testing in children’s products and toys has been imposed, said the Washington Post.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just voted to put off the lead testing requirement until 2011. The last time the panel voted—January 2009—the vote was passed to delay toy-testing rules for a year in a response to industry over claims it found the mandates “confusing and expensive,” reported the Washington Post. The recent delay means some children’s products, for children under the age of 12, do not require testing for lead content by third-part laboratories—versus product suppliers and makers—recognized as such by the agency, said the Washington Post.

Effective February 10, the third-party testing requirement will be implemented by the agency for some products—bicycle helmets, bunk beds, and baby rattles—said the Washington Post, noting that federal lead limits on children’s products are in place for manufacturers and importers.

In January, the CPSC voted to exempt some lead-laden electronic goods and products from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) from the lead toy ban that became effective earlier this year. Last year, Congress passed the first overhaul to consumer protection laws in about 20 years, mostly over the glut of recalled Chinese-made lead-tainted toys.

In 2007, over six million toys were recalled because of lead; the highest number ever due to product defects; Mattel Inc. alone recalled twenty-one million toys. Lawsuits over lead in toys included cases with Fisher-Price; Michaels Stores; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; Costco Wholesale; Eveready Battery; KMart; and Marvel Entertainment for Ernie, Elmo, Big Bird, SpongeBob, and Thomas the Train products. Potentially dangerous toys remained on store shelves several times during that year and by the time that year’s holiday season hit—the busiest selling time for toy companies—the CPSC had recalled 75 brands of toys. Of those, 39 recalls were implemented due to lead exposure.

Meanwhile, this August, the Commission very quietly gave toy maker giant, Mattel, some leeway in the mandated testing requirements. Although an array of manufacturers, including toy and clothing makers, must submit samples of products to independent labs for safety tests, Mattel is exempt, reported the Associated Press (AP) previously. Of note, Mattel is the largest U.S. toy maker, said the AP and, said Center for Environmental Health executive director, Michael Green, “It’s really ironic that the company that was a principal source of the problem” gets favorable government treatment.

In children and fetuses, lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Unfortunately, lead poisoning is difficult to recognize because it manifests with subtle symptoms and there are no definitive indicators that point to contamination. When faced with peculiar symptoms that do not match any one particular disease, lead poisoning should be considered.

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