February 3, 2009
Controversial provisions in a federal law that would require all toys sold in the U.S. to meet strict safety standards have been postponed. Lead and phthalate testing requirements in the law, which was scheduled to go into effect Feb. 10, won a year's reprieve on Jan. 30 because of an outcry from small toy manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
Citing the "chaos and confusion" created by the law known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord said in a Jan. 30 statement, "The action we are taking today puts in place a limited 'time out' so that the Commission and the Congress can address the issues with the law that have become so painfully apparent."
Congress passed the CPSIA in August 2008 in response to recent imports of Chinese-manufactured toys with high lead content, unsafe small parts and chemical ingredients. Along with lead and phthalate testing, it mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys sold in the U.S., along with a requirement that toymakers permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.
Opponents of the CPSIA believe it discriminates against small or home-based toy manufacturers. According to the Handmade Toy Alliance, an organization of toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers, it could cost between $300 to $4,000 per toy for all the tests necessary to comply with the CPSIA.
"For small toymakers and manufacturers of children's products, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business," alliance members said in a statement posted on their website, www.handmadetoyalliance.org. "If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers' market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered."
Retailers are also concerned about liability associated with selling improperly tested toys. The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association is posting retailer-oriented tips and updates on the CPSIA at www.astratoy.org.
Nord said the year-long postponement of the CPSIA will give her commission and Congress time to "develop and issue rules defining responsibilities of manufacturers, importers, retailers and testing labs." Although the most controversial provisions of the CPSIA were suspended, as of Feb. 10, toy manufacturers must still meet standards for small parts that may break off, lead content in children's jewelry and lead paint.
Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, said he is planning to introduce legislation this week to exempt some small businesses from the CPSIA. There is also speculation that toys and clothing made from natural materials will be exempted from the law once it is reworked.
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