Some Products Exempt From Lead RulesJan 7, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just voted to exempt some lead-laden electronic goods and products from the recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The Act comes into effect next month, but the CPSC is looking to remove certain lead-containing electronic goods, among other items, from the lead toy ban, reports Bloomberg News. The ban on lead in toys becomes effective next month on February 10th.
The Commission, comprised of two members, was responding to industry complaints said Bloomberg, and is also looking to release some natural products, such as wool, gems, pearls, and cotton, from the mandatory lead testing. Industry lobbyists, speaking on behalf of makers of “books, handheld computers, bedding, and shoes” hope to find exemption for the Act and are working to remove a variety of products—glass, bolts, and mattress padding, to name a few—that they feel present no risks to children, reported Bloomberg. The Commission’s proposal received initial approval this week and is open for public comment for one month, said Bloomberg. Industry had been looking for more expansive and immediate exemptions to the approaching law, added Bloomberg.
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 include 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.
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.
Finally, 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, said Bloomberg. The Act strengthens and expands the existing lead standard and mandates that chidren’s product and toy makers obtain independent testing to ensure products are lead-free, Bloomberg noted.
Now, in the days before the Act takes effect, manufacturers are looking for ways to skirt the mandates and avoid lead testing in a wide variety of products. Many experts agree that lead in any amount is dangerous to children, fetuses, and adults and many consider lead poisoning to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today. Despite efforts to control lead, serious cases still occur.