2007 was the ‘summer of recalls‘ when millions children’s toys and products—including ‘Polly Pocket’ and Barbie play sets and mostly made in China—were recalled by their manufacturers for safety hazards. Some products had lead paint; some toys contained small magnets that a child might ingest.
The next year, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, increasing the staff of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, widening its authority, and upping its funding. At that time, manufacturing groups like the Toy Industry Association and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association supported the legislation.
But now those groups are seeking to do away with new safety regulations that are too burdensome. In particular, they want to quash a new public database (due to be available in three weeks) operated by the CPSC that would allow the public to search for injury reports on cribs, strollers, and other products. And, they have found a ‘receptive audience among House Republicans’ seeking to pass an amendment to an appropriations bill that would strip funding from the database, the February 21st New York Times says:
“I’m an engineer. I love data. But I know what people put online,” [Representative Mike Pompeo] Pompeo [Republican of California] said at a meeting of the House subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade last week. “I think this is a plaintiff’s bar dream.”
Other lawmakers, including at least one Democrat, Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, suggested that new regulations requiring third-party testing of all children’s products for safety and lead were too broad and needed to be revised.
“Let’s focus more on real dangers to our children,” said Representative Mary Bono Mack, Republican of California, at the subcommittee hearing, “instead of perceived ones.”
A lawyer for the toy and children’s products groups, Rick Locker, says that ‘certain parts of the law were confusing and others illogical’ and that the database is ‘problematic.’ For instance, lead testing is currently required of all children’s products such as bicycles, rather than to only those products that might be ingested by children.
Currently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. The commission’s chairwoman, Inez Tenenbaum, a Democrat, has spoken about ‘making some adjustments in the law, like giving the commission more flexibility to exempt certain products, like bicycles and books, from lead testing,’ as well as to exempt small businesses who make toys and other products for children, who who simply do not have resources to pay for third-party testing.
But it’s worthwhile to note that some children—-autistic children, for instance, who sometimes have a condition called pica in which they mouth or eat non-edible and potentially hazardous objects—can be exposed to dangerous substances such as lead in any children’s toys and products. I have known kids, and not only those with disabilities, who will put pretty much anything in their mouths. Yes, you can say that parents need to be on the watch. On the other hand, especially with frequent reports about the safety of items such as crib bumpers, it’s important, and empowering, for the public to have access to information like injury reports. Isn’t the safety of our children worth it?
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