CPSC Head Voices Opposition to Tougher Lead Standards

Nancy Nord, head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said a new federal standard limiting lead in toys and other children’s products “might prove to be overly broad.” Nord, an appointee of President Bush and former lobbyist for corporate interests, has long been criticized for seeming to be disinterested in ensuring the CPSC fulfills its mission of protecting the public.

The limit on lead is part of a product safety bill currently under Congressional consideration and would require the CPSC to set a standard limiting lead in children’s products to trace amounts of 100 parts per million for the content and 90 parts per million for paint or coatings.

Americans need a strict federal standard on lead in children’s products and many consider lead poisoning to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today.  Exposure to lead in children and unborn children 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 also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead can damage the nervous system.  Despite efforts to control lead and the success in decreasing lead poisoning, serious cases still occur.  Once poisoned, no organ system is immune.  Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.  Lead can be inhaled or ingested once it settles out of the air and once in the body, is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Recently, American consumers have been facing ongoing, huge problems with lead-contaminated products. In 2007, the CPSC announced 106 recalls of lead-contaminated children’s products totaling 17,126,810 individual items representing a 500 percent increase from 2006.

Considering the life-threatening gravity of this situation, it was generally believed that Nord would be seeking strong federal action.  This does not seem to be the case.  Also, many are wondering what happened to the CPSC Reform Bill, which does include the lead standard as well as other important provisions.  The House bill (H.R. 4040) passed in December and the Senate bill (S. 2663) passed in early March.  Democratic leaders were hoping to finalize the bill before last Christmas; however, concerns are mounting that the bill will not be finalized by year-end, 2008.  Meanwhile, CPSC recalls of lead-contaminated children’s products continue and show no signs of diminishing.

Earlier this year, some toymakers decided to take it upon themselves to tackle lead and other standards in toys being sold to American children by enforcing voluntary standards that are more stringent than the mandatory federal standard currently in place.

President Bush has been criticized for continually blocking the CPSC from doing its job; therefore, Congressional action is needed to help increase safety to consumers, especially children.  Also, one of CPSC’s three commissioners resigned in 2006 and under the Consumer Product Safety Act, the CPSC can continue to conduct formal business with two commissioners for six months. That quorum expired and has been extended, but President Bush has refused to nominate a candidate to serve as CPSC’s third commissioner, despite growing concern over toy safety.

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