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A year later, there’s hope we’ll finally get the lead out of toys

Submitted by on Friday, 15 August 2008 No Comment

I suppose 14 months isn’t an excessive gestation period for a law, especially when you consider that except for bills that bail out big businesses, it can take dog years for Congress to act.

Still, it seems like centuries ago that parents were aghast and children were distraught as the Grinch Who Stole Summer snatched 45 million toys off shelves due to lead contamination.

Everything from backpacks to trains to Little People were recalled, leaving folks befuddled that this was happening in the 21st Century. I thought experts had established long ago that lead exposure is bad for children.

A few far right wing nuts, though, saw conspiracy:

“”Are you falling for this BS about children’s toys and the dangers of?”" the lunatic fringe asked at a site where I used to blog. “”This is nothing but an all out attempt by the unions and other liberal political groups to try once again to do something to slow down the economy while we have a Republican president. They are stooping as low as possible when they try to bring the children in to their political scams.”"

Today, mercifully, the Republican president fell for the scam when he signed what the New York Times says is the strictest lead law in the world.

In addition to ratcheting down standards to the point where even the tiniest bit of lead will be illegal, the law doubles the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s budget. The agency felt the summer heat last year as it faced unrelenting criticism for letting contaminated imports, largely from China, in the country to begin with.

The new law is reassuring, but I’m not about to drop my guard. Even after last summer’s tidal wave, independent testing of 1,200 children’s products on the shelves revealed that 35 percent contained unacceptable levels of lead. And this was reported in December, six months after the recalls started.

I’ll admit I caved a bit at Christmas, giving into pleas for Thomas. I figured the manufacturer, which was hit hard in the early recalls, had had time to clean up its act, plus the guys have passed the stage of sticking everything in their mouths.

But I think long and hard before purchasing imports these days. And I don’t buy cheap trinkets, which still seem to hit the CPSC recall lists regularly.

Bottom line: Tougher standards and stepped-up inspections will help. But it’s still up to us as parents to remain vigilant.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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