Let’s Just Hope There’s No Lead in Your Toys Until 2010

The toy companies that moved their production to China in order to save money apparently didn’t calculate the full costs of offshoring. Testing their products for lead is just too expensive, they argue. They have successfully lobbied to delay lead testing rules for children’s toys. Joseph Pereira and Melanie Trottman of the Journal report:

Under pressure from manufacturers, federal regulators have postponed for one year certain testing requirements for lead and other toxic substances in toys and other children’s products.

But unless Congress acts, retailers and manufacturers still won’t be allowed to sell products that don’t comply with tougher lead standards that are set to take effect on Feb. 10. “Congress will need to address that issue — the CPSC cannot,” Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in a statement.

The stay allows manufacturers, which have been hit hard by the recession, to put off costly product testing for levels of lead, used to stabilize the plastic in products, and phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften plastic. The testing rules were supposed to have taken effect on Feb. 10 as well.

So, let’s just hope that there’s no lead in the toys you buy your kids in the next year. Oops, wait a minute. There is lead in them. All you have to do is test to find it:

Friday, the Center for Environmental Health, an advocacy group in Oakland, Calif., said it found several Valentine’s Day stuffed-animal toys sold by Rite Aid Corp. and Longs Drugs, a unit of CVS Caremark Corp., with lead exceeding the new national standards that take effect on Feb. 10. The lead levels found in one of the stuffed-animal toys were more than 15 times the new federal limit, the Center for Environmental Health said. “There should be something to back up a claim that the products are safe, but without testing and certification there’s no assurance,” said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the group.


  1. But the big toy companies can afford to do this. Unlike the small operations, the hand work shops, and private craftspeople (who are not exempted).

    And don’t forget the problem that the libraries face:


    Regulation run amok.

  2. You really should have looked into this more and why it’s been postponed. It wasn’t the big companies that pushed for the delay but the small manufacturers here in the US (not in china where the problem came from) that would have been forced out of business by the cost of testing. If you make a small run of 20 or 30 t-shirts for kids, the estimated testing cost would be in the thousands, probably more than you could sell all the shirts for. Not to mention it’s retroactive which means big problems for libraries, thrift stores, and schools.

    Also the law is totally unfeasable right now as far as even getting the testing done. There are currently only 20 labs in the entire country who do the testing and thousands of companies producing children’s products with possibly millions of different products. I’m lucky in that my jewelry is for adults but I’ve been talking to so many people who makes kids products out of their homes who were afraid they would have to shut down not because their products contain lead but because they can’t afford the testing if they could even get the testing at all with the limited availability of labs.

    The whole thing is a mess. Small businesses don’t want to put kids at risk, and honestly they aren’t the problem as they’re not importing from China (one blog I read pointed out that it’s easier to get heroin in the US than lead paint) but they have to try to stay in business.

  3. Man… what happened to the good old days where if you suspected someone was selling tainted food, you could force them to eat some to prove it was OK?

    I recommend the manufacturers, if they don’t wish to test for lead, be forced to suck on one in every ten thousand toys, picked randomly, for five minutes. I bet we’d see them willing to cough up the money for testing then.

  4. Not a bad solution really. Small producers might make 10k toys in 5 or 10 years. Plus most would willingly do it because they aren’t making products with lead.

    This also applies to every product for children under 12 not just toys. I haven’t totally worked out all the ramifications but there are some products which would be difficult to impossible to produce without some small amounts of lead but are low risk of exposure, like say school microscopes, yet the law doesn’t make any distinctions right now for relative risk. That’s one of the areas CPSC needs to address.

    None of this means I don’t think there should be testing or limits on lead, just trying to explain why the law as it stands is unworkable and why the delay is important to give CPSC time to figure things out (the law was passed in August that only gave them 6 months to prepare if the law were to actually go into effect in February).

  5. This issue was one of the top ten issues supported by visitors/participants at change dot org. Indeed, it is probably this grassroots uprising rather than ‘big manufacturing’ pressure that has resulted in this delay in testing.

    Rightly so.


  6. The real question is: WHY ARE THEY USING LEAD IN THE FIRST PLACE???


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