Rick Woldenberg objects to the need to test childrens products for chemicals and other hazardous materials banned under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, but how can he be so sure that his toys arent toxic?
Mr. Woldenberg states, I dont make toxic toys, and we fervently hope that he is right. The fact is that testing toys for lead and other toxins was never required, meaning that retailers could have been unwittingly selling dangerous products which were then put into childrens hands by their parents. Unfortunately, this happened in too many cases, and that is precisely why we have this strong new law.
He implies that consumer groups have some nefarious goal of putting innocent toy companies out of business. Instead, many of us are parents ourselves and simply want safe products for all children.
His complaint that politics has taken over childrens product safety is something we may actually agree on lobbyists for industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Bulk Vendors Association and the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association have spent millions to influence the debate and weaken any new rules.
In support of his claims, Mr. Woldenberg references the numbers of recalls for lead paint and points out that there were no recalls for phthalates. In fact, the CPSC did not have the authority to recall a product for phthalates, no matter how dangerous it was to our childrens health. Congress recognized the scientific evidence and established a new standard to protect our children from these toxic chemicals in the CPSIA. Furthermore, millions of lead-tainted toys from across the U.S. were recalled. Substances like lead and phthalates are insidious precisely because they are invisible to consumers.
A parent would have no way of knowing that lead paint was on a toy or piece of their childs furniture, much less that it was responsible for their child losing IQ points. Similarly, parents would not detect phthalates in plastic toys that could affect a childs development. And for those products that may contain lead in a form that would not harm children, the CPSC has been given the authority to exempt products from the lead-limit rules but only after manufacturers show that the products will not negatively impact children.
Thanks to the CPSIA and new appointments by President Barack Obama, the CPSC will soon have the tools they need to keep children safe. Mr. Woldenberg and his allies in the industry should stop hindering progress and let the CPSC do its job.
Nancy Cowles is executive director of Kids in Danger. She co-authored this piece with safety advocates from the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Research Center for Women & Families and U.S. PIRG.
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