New Toy Safety Standards Become Law

Although standards are now changing, improvements to products in stores may not be completely apparent in time for the 2008 holiday shopping season. The law requires some provisions to begin within months and others to begin within years.

It will take two years, for instance, to start a database that will enable people to search for injury, death or illness reports on products.

And although she said "this year's Christmas toys are probably already shipped," Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a nonprofit advocacy group in Chicago, added, "I'm certainly hoping that at least some of the major manufacturers and retailers have already put into place some of the measures already in the bill."

On Tuesday, the Toy Industry Association, a group that represents more than 500 manufacturers and toy importers, said the group is already working on a Toy Safety Certification Program to enable products to conform to the new law.

The new law will also give the Consumer Product Safety Commission new resources to ensure safe products and will require lead levels to eventually be reduced to 100 parts per million. It requires mandatory testing and safety certifications on children's products for ages 12 and younger and calls on foreign manufacturers to adhere to U.S. standards for toy safety. It requires manufacturers to label products with tracking information so people can easily find out if the product they own has been recalled.

The law also bans selling kids' toys and products that contain more than 0.1 percent of certain phthalates, which are chemicals used to make soft and flexible vinyl.

But the effort to restrict those chemicals has met some resistance from the American Chemistry Council. On July 28, the council said it supported bolstering the Consumer Product Safety Commission but said the element of the law that will restrict phthalates is ill-conceived.

"Our children's health and safety is too important to rush through product restrictions without understanding their full consequences and ACC [the American Chemistry Council] believes that restricting phthalates from children's products, when they have been deemed safe for use in those products by the CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission], will do nothing to protect children's health," Sharon Kneiss, vice president of the products division at the chemistry council, said in a statement.

"There is no scientific basis for Congress to restrict phthalates from toys and children's products," she added. "With over 50 years of research, phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied products in the world, and have been reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies in the U.S. and Europe."

On Capitol Hill, the House and Senate came to an agreement on the measure to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission a makeover at the end of July and sent it to the president for his signature earlier this month.

"One of the roles of government is to get between kids and the sorts of hazards that are well beyond parents who aren't engineers and chemists with laboratories at their disposal," said Texas Republican Joe Barton, ranking member on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce panel, in a July 28 release.

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