Regulators Delay New Rules for Testing Lead in Toys

Joseph Pereira and Melanie Trottman, Wall Street Journal

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.

The new rules for the first time impose limits on the amount of
total lead that can be used in children's products, and they toughen
standards on the amount of lead allowed in paint.

Under the new requirements, total lead content of children's
products must be less than 600 parts per million of the product's
overall chemical content; the limit for phthalates is 1,000 parts per
million. The rules were written to apply to any products intended for
use by children 12 years old or younger, including toys, electronics,
apparel and sporting equipment, though some product makers have been
seeking exemptions.

The testing stay "is exactly what we were asking for," said Jessica
Hickey, president of Buggalove LLC, a Red Hill, Pa., maker of mobile
and other nursery accessories. Ms. Hickey said the added testing
expense would have forced her to close this summer, "but now I've got a
business until next February."

Consumer groups, however, argue that the standards are meaningless
unless products can be tested to see whether they fall within the
limits. Indeed, watchdog groups are still finding toxic toys on the
shelves of U.S. retailers.

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.

The toys are made by Dan-Dee International Ltd., a China-based
manufacturer of toys and novelties with U.S. offices in Jersey City,
N.J. Company officials didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Both
Rite Aid, based in Camp Hill, Pa., and CVS of Woonsocket, R.I., have
removed the items from the shelves, officials from the two chains said.

Even though the testing for lead in plastic has been postponed,
manufacturers still will be obligated to test for lead in paint and in
jewelry. Millions of children's products have been recalled in recent
years because of lead in paint and jewelry.

Manufacturers have said they fear the regulation will force them to
take back all untested and uncertified products. "Many small and
medium-sized companies could be pushed to the point of possible
bankruptcy because they will be left holding billions of dollars in
inventory that is now worthless, although it poses no safety threat to
children," said Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry
Association. Rick Locker, attorney for the association, said it, along
with more than 50 other manufacturer organizations, plans to press
Congress in the coming days to postpone the Feb. 10 deadline.

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