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Lead in Toys Would be Banned Under Proposed Legislation

Sep 12, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP A US Senator wants lead banned from children’s toys, and has recently introduced a bill she says would accomplish that goal.  Many Americans believe that lead is already banned in toys, but in reality only lead paint is forbidden.  Right now, the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s (CPSC) lead standards limit lead in other toy components to .06 parts per million.  But those standards are voluntary, and many critics say that the limit, based on old scientific research, is too high.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) has introduced a bill that would treat lead in any children’s products as a banned hazardous substance.  Klobuchar says that such a move would make virtually any lead illegal.  Klobuchar’s legislation would lower maximum trace levels for the toxic metal to .02 parts-per-million for children’s jewelry and .04 parts-per-million for other toys.   

Lead, which can cause brain damage and other health problems if ingested by children, has been responsible for a wave of toy recalls in recent months.   On August 1, Fisher-Price recalled millions of popular character toys, including Dora the Explorer and Spongebob Squarepants, for high levels of lead.   Within five weeks, Fisher-Price’s parent company, Mattel, Inc. had issued two more recalls for hazardous toys, many of which were made with lead paint.  Children’s jewelry and other toys have also been recalled because of the toxic metal.

Of all toys, children’s jewelry has been especially troublesome.  Lead-tainted children’s jewelry and trinkets have caused serious lead poisoning in at least 7 children in the past 10 years.  Last year, 4-year-old Jarnell Brown of Minneapolis died after swallowing a charm that was 99-percent lead.  The CPSC has been trying to eliminate lead from children’s trinkets and jewelry for several years, but such products keep showing up in stores, endangering countless children. Now, the CPSC wants to limit the amount of lead allowed in children’s jewelry to .06 parts per million – the same standard it sets for other toys. But critics say the proposed CPSC regulations are toothless.  Like most toys the CPSC regulates, testing of jewelry for lead content won’t be mandatory.

Klobuchar also introduced legislation that she said would make recalls easier to implement.   It would require that all toys and toy packages include stamps that would allow parents to more easily identify toys involved in a recall.   The bill would also make it illegal to resell recalled toys.  Recalled toys often turn up in thrift stores, garage sales and online auctions.

Klobuchar said that she hopes her bills become part of a comprehensive package of toy safety legislation.  She is scheduled to give testimony at a Senate hearing on toy safety today. The CEOs of Toys ‘R’ Us and Mattel, along with commissioners from the CPSC, will also  be appearing before the committee.

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