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Elisa Batista's picture

Cross-posted at MotherTalkers.

There has been much hoopla surrounding toys recalled for safety reasons. But are the legislators and industry actually doing something about it? Parents magazine recently released a full report:

"The President: President Bush has called for measures to strengthen the CPSC’s (Consumer Product Safety Commision’s) authority by making it illegal for companies to knowingly sell a recalled product; by authorizing the agency to issue follow-up recall notices; and by requiring companies to report detailed information about recalled products. Bush also wants to establish a certification program for companies with a track record for meeting safety standards. In addition, he’s called for increased monitoring of countries and companies known for not meeting safety standards and increased penalties for violating U.S. import laws. He also wants more training for overseas inspectors.

Critics say this is a good start, but the CPSC needs an infusion of more federal money—and more manpower—so it can adequately monitor the safety of products on the market.

Congress: The CPSC Reform Act of 2007, which at press time had been approved by a Senate committee, would more than double the agency’s budget from $62.4 million to $141.7 million by 2015, increase staffing levels by nearly 20 percent, increase the maximum fine on companies from $1.8 million to $100 million, and give the agency greater authority. The bill also calls for more testing of children’s products, bans lead in children’s products, and (like the president’s proposal) makes it illegal to knowingly sell a recalled product. Another version of the bill is in the works in the House of Representatives.

Critics say in its current form, such a law would overly burden the CPSC. They think that most of the responsibility for monitoring products for safety should be on toy manufacturers—not on the government.

The States: Local political leaders are also taking action. Some states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and California, are considering or have recently passed legislation to bolster lead testing and safety requirements for toys and jewelry made for children. Eight states (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Vermont) currently have laws to prohibit the sale of any recalled items.

Critics say while it’s good that states are looking after their residents, it’s best to have federal laws. Regulations that vary by state can be challenging for manufacturers and retailers.

The Toy Industry: Manufacturers have been very aggressive in issuing voluntary recalls when they learn about unsafe products. They have also announced that they will conduct more stringent testing of their products and impose rigorous standards on imported goods. Some retailers, such as Toys “R” Us, have called for further testing of the products they stock.

Critics say although these efforts are laudable, the proposed safeguards are inadequate. Manufacturers need another layer of enforcement by outsiders to ensure safety."

I agree with the last point by critics. I think the lack of federal oversight -- especially in light of outsourced manufacturing and cutting funding and staff for the CPSC -- is a problem and it shows.

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