The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, aimed at keeping lead and toxic plastic chemicals called phthalates out of children's toys, went into effect yesterday. Congress enacted this law last year in response to numerous recalls of over 20 million toys, many made in China, tainted with these dangerous chemicals. It requires manufacturers to test imported toys and label when and where they were made. Fines range from $100,000 to as much as $15 million for repeat offenders. The act provides criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for intentional violations. San Francisco Chronicle environment writer Jane Kay reported yesterday that:
"even before the law took effect, two giant retail chains, Longs Drug Stores and Rite Aid, removed three styles of Valentine's Day mechanical singing-and-dancing plush animals from their shelves after receiving calls from [California] Attorney General Jerry Brown's office. The red plastic guitars attached to "Wild Thing Gorilla," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg Dog" and "Sing & Dance Puppy," manufactured in China by Dan Dee International, contain levels of lead that may violate [California laws] Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Based on metal testing, the toys may also violate the new federal law, state officials said."
It is particularly important that toys be free of lead. The scientific community agrees that there are no safe levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin that can damage the developing nervous systems. While I am happy that Congress has passed a law that will clean up American toys shelves, I can't help but wonder, how did those chemicals end up in toys in the first place? Had we had a stronger policy on toxic chemicals, something like that would never have happened.