New Toy Safety Standards Become Law

From lunchboxes and backpacks to baby cribs and toy figurines, a lengthy effort to make children's products safer has finally cleared the final hurdles.

Mandatory federal standards will soon dictate how many children's products are made before they can be sold in stores. On Thursday, the president signed into law an expansive consumer product safety measure that includes, among many elements, tough new standards for lead and chemicals in products meant for kids younger than 12. It also calls for mandatory safety tests and sets forth more ways to keep kids safe in the event of a recall.

To parents who are sadly all too familiar with product safety, the law is a milestone.

"As far as I can tell, I believe it definitely is a huge improvement," mother Lisa Davis told Davis' 13-month-old daughter Ellie died during a nap in 2002 when the changing table portion of a Graco play yard fell on her neck.

"I'm not naive enough to believe that there are going to be no accidents in a children's product, but I guarantee you, 90 percent of them are going to be improved with this bill, in my opinion," Davis said.

For the last year, major toy and product recalls have dominated the headlines, whether concerns were sparked by worries about lead poisoning in Thomas the Tank Engine trains, Aquadots coated with a date rape drug or baby cribs not safe for sleeping. After several huge recalls before the holiday gift-giving season during the winter, fears about toy and product safety ran rampant.

Those fears prompted louder calls than ever for consumer product safety reform, as well as stepped-up inspections of imported toys and children's products.

"What about the busy mom who's got the 4-year-old grabbing at her pant leg, the phone's ringing and the 1-year-old's in the play yard?" Davis asked.

"I could not believe that there weren't more rigorous standards for making baby's products."

"This bill will help to ensure that products Americans find on their store shelves are safe and that the regulating agencies have the resources they need to enforce law," White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said today. "This has become an increasingly difficult and complex job as more imports from more nations are now sold in the United States than ever before. Although we had some concerns with the bill, we're pleased that Congress included some recommendations from the President's Action Plan for Import Safety."

Consumer groups that include Consumers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Public Citizen have said that more than 27,000 deaths occur in the United States each year from products under the purview of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Of the product involved in her family's tragedy, Davis said, "The bottom line was that the design was horrible."

"Because of this bizarre crescent-shaped hole, it fit right over, and it would fit right over any little kid's neck," she said.

According to a February 2008 joint release from consumer groups, there were 473 recalls during the 2007 fiscal year. Among them were 25 million toys recalled because of lead paint, magnets and other concerns. At that time, U.S. Public Interest Research Group consumer program director Ed Mierzwinski called the safety commission "a little agency with a big job."

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