Stores, toymakers want less stringent lead-safety rule
Last year, Mommas were lighting up message boards all over the country trying to find out why there was so much lead in our kids' toys. Several high-profile toy recalls in 2007, including those from Fisher-Price and Mattel, led Congress this year to require manufacturers to meet higher standards to screen out lead. Retailers will be forced to stop selling any inventory that doesn't meet those standards starting Feb. 10. Each violation risks a $10,000 fine.
But with the downturn in the economy, toymakers and retailers are now asking lawmakers to relax those rules, the Wall Street Journal says. One retailer said that he has written the Consumer Product Safety Commission and congressional staffers to ask for more time to sell-off older inventory. The National Association of Manufacturers and other trade groups have also asked regulators and Congress not to apply the new lead standard to products made before the standard was set.
So with the economy in a pickle, what will lawmakers do? Federal safety officials are already worried that money woes will cause parents to buy used toys that may contain lead or have other safety issues. And with lead being used in everything, how can you be sure that the amount used won't cause a problem, especially for children?
Of course, as The Daily Green points out, the problem with loosening the rules " is that lead causes permanent brain damage ... Lead exposure -- even in relatively small doses -- has been linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, even violence."
There is some good news: thanks to tighter enforcement of rules that already are in place, fewer toys have been recalled this year than last. In 2007, a record 112 toys were recalled because of lead paint or poison; this year, there have been 64 recalls, according to this MSNBC story.
So what should we do -- relax the rules and hope that none of the bad shipments make it to our kids or keep the rules in place and risk hurting businesses that are already in pain? I know what I would do -- keep the rules! -- but what do you think?
-- Sherry Robinson
[Photo: Times files of a Thomas train that had been recalled]