Child safety is a major personal concern of mine. I have five children; three grown, and two not quite. As such, I know first-hand the worries of a parent about dangerous or defective toys. Although toys are not always safe in the U.S., I believe we have the safest toys in the world. Why?
The most potent engine in America for protecting consumers from dangerous and defective products, including toys, is the products liability lawyer. Defective product attorneys in Central New York and elsewhere have saved thousands of lives by forcing manufacturers of dangerous or defective products to make their products safer or else pay the consequences by way of large jury verdicts for pain and suffering, lost wages, wrongful death and medical expenses.
The second most powerful engine in the U.S. for making consumer goods safer is arguably the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the CPSC). It is the U.S. agency charged with protecting consumers from dangerous and defective products. The CPSC decides when “recalls” of products are required. In this year alone (2009) the CPSC recalled 466 products. For example, the CPSC recently ordered the recall of Roman shades and roll-up blinds after the shades had already caused five deaths and 16 near-strangulations. The agency monitors the safety of about 15,000 products, including household goods, sports equipment, furniture and toys. (Other Federal agencies are charged with monitoring, and recalling if necessary, dangerous automobiles, food, beverages, pesticides and cosmetics).
But the CPSC does not always put safety first. Although a 2008 congressional overhaul of the CPSC put more emphasis on childhood safety and increased the CPSC’s budget for this purpose, the agency’s commissioners voted last week to delay, for a second time, requiring certification and independent third-party testing of lead in children’s products. Lead in children can cause, among other harms, permanent brain damage. The agency appears to have bowed to pressure from manufacturers who were worried about the business cost of the new requirement. In another compromise of safety, the CPSC commissioners voted to permit manufacturers and importers to rely on lead testing from the suppliers of zippers, paint, buttons and other parts that are used in toys, clothing or other children’s products, rather than have them test the entire finished product.
What does this mean for you, the consumer? You still can’t trust that the toys and other products you buy for your kids are lead-free. Be careful about what your infant or toddler puts in his or her mouth.