Toys “R” Us Announces New Lead Safety Standards

Toys “R” Us has announced plans to enforce a voluntary standard for lead in toys that is more stringent than the mandatory federal standard currently in place. According to a Toys “R” Us press release, “We have instructed all manufacturers who produce items for Toys “R” Us, Inc. that products shipped to the company on or after March 1, 2008 must comply with strict new standards, which include…applying a more stringent standard of 90 ppm for lead in surface coatings versus the current federal standard of 600 ppm for all products manufactured exclusively for Toys “R” Us, Inc.”  Toys “R” Us is also moving to ban phthalates in toys and plans to require all products sold in their stores to be phthalate-free by year-end of 2008.  The new standards also includes toys shipped to Babies “R” Us stores.

Studies have shown that phthalate exposure causes developmental abnormalities, particularly in fetuses and infants.  The European Union and the state of California have announced restrictions on the presence of phthalates in children’s products. Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and can cause mental and physical retardation and behavioral and other health problems in children.  In adults, lead can damage the nervous system.

Congress is working toward a new, even more stringent federal lead standard in toys.  In legislation to expand the budget and authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it would be required to set a standard of “100 parts per million total lead content by weight for any part of the product, effective four years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the Commission determines, after notice and a hearing, that a standard of 100 parts per million is not feasible, in which case the Commission shall require the lowest amount of lead that the Commission determines is feasible to achieve.” (H.R, 4040 § 101(a)(2)(C)).  A version of the bill is in the Senate and would make the 100 ppm standard effective three years after the bill is enacted.  Both bills would set a lead standard of 90 ppm for paint on toys.

But, President Bush continues to block 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 in January 2007, but in August, Congress extending the date six months.  On February 4, the quorum expired again.  Meanwhile, President Bush has refused to nominate a candidate to serve as CPSC’s third commissioner, despite mounting concern over toy safety.

According to the Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us press release, the lead standard mandates include a test criterion and lead screening equipment.  The retailer also said it has begun replacing phthalates and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in their products in addition to implementing the year-end mandates to its manufacturers and has also required that nickel-cadmium batteries be eliminated by year-end 2008 in all items manufactured for the chain.

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