New Child Product Safety Law Now in Effect

The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), enacted in August 2008, went into effect yesterday and has consumers and sellers equally confused.  The law, points out WebMD, focuses on lead and phthalates in children’s toys and products.

Phthalates are chemicals that enable flexibility in plastics and vinyls, for instance pacifiers and rubber ducks, but which are known in laboratory testing to cause reproductive disturbances such as decreased sperm count, infertility, and reproductive tract malformations, reported WebMD.  Phthalates are also found in cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, food packaging, and cleaning and building materials, which means that the toxic, dangerous chemical is also quite ubiquitous, noted the National Academy of Sciences in a report it recently published on the issue, said WebMD.

Under the CPSIA, said WebMD, children’s products cannot contain in excess of 0.1 percent of six different types of phthalates.The phthalate limits apply to toys meant for children age 12 and under—except bicycles, playground equipment, musical instruments, and sporting goods—and for child care products for children age three and under and that would be used for sleeping, feeding, sucking, or teething, reported WebMD.

The lead limits apply to consumer products for children age 12 and under and prohibit lead in amounts of 600 parts per million (ppm) in any of the product’s accessible parts, said WebMD, thus decreasing allowable limits under prior mandates. There are myriad issues presented, for instance, children’s books printed prior to 1980 could potentially be in violation of the lead standards ban because lead was allowed in ink at that time, but is in violation of the law today, noted WebMD.

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 also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead 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.  Lead poisoning happens over time with exposure occurring over months, even years, WebMD pointed out.

Also, effective in 2010, children’s product manufacturers must test and certify products, ensuring such products are in compliance with CPSIA standards, said WebMD, noting that, until then, products in excess of the mandated levels can be recalled.  Unfortunately, last week, the CPSC acquiesced to industry pressure and allowed for a delay in the testing requirement which was meant to take effect yesterday, but which has been pushed to next year, reported USA Today, leaving parents and sellers confused as to how to proceed.

In 2008, there were 69 recalls of toys containing lead; seven recalls this year, said USA based on CPSC records.

If they violate the law, retailers and manufacturers would be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including up to five years jail time, said USA Today.

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