Largest Compliance Monitoring Program Demonstrates Children’s Product Safety Law is Working

Washington,DC – In testimony today to the House subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, Center for Environmental Health (CEH) Research Director Caroline Cox reported on data from more than 1200 toys and other children’s products, which CEH screened for lead in the largest independent program monitoring compliance to federal lead safety standards. The testimony came in response to a Republican proposal to weaken the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which established for the first time comprehensive federal limits on lead in children’s products. The CEH data shows that more than 96% of products tested were in compliance with the law’s lead limits, demonstrating that the law has successfully protected American children from lead-tainted products.

“My fundamental message today is that the CPSIA as written, has been an enormous success,” Cox told the Committee. “Health professionals agree that there is no safe level of exposure to lead for children. So it is discouraging to see proposed revisions that would significantly weaken a law that has worked so well to protect American children from unnecessary lead exposures.”

Cox noted that, prior to adoption of the CPSIA, CEH found high amounts of lead in dozens of children’s products sold to millions of American families by Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and other major retailers. But with no federal lead limits (other than for paint) in children’s products, the nonprofit relied on California law to address these lead problems. Under the state law, CEH was able to win legal agreements to protect children in California from high lead levels in baby bibs, diaper rash creams, vinyl lunchboxes, candies, toys, and children’s jewelry.

Since the federal law has been in place, Cox reported that CEH has found a major shift in the marketplace for children’s products. The fifteen month CEH compliance testing program, administered under a grant from the California attorney general, purchased more than 1200 products primarily from major national retailers, including stuffed animals, toys, games, lunch boxes, backpacks, jewelry, toy sporting equipment, and other products similar to, or made from similar materials as ones identified in the past with lead problems.

The testing found just 46 products that did not comply with CPSIA lead standards, suggesting 96% compliance with the law. Since CEH purchasing was not random, but was looking for products like those with known lead problems, it is likely that overall compliance is actually even higher.

Cox also reported on CEH testing data from 2007, before the law was developed, and from 2008, before the lead limits were in effect, showing that over the four-year interval, lead hazards in children’s products were reduced by a factor of approximately three. Cox told the Committee that, given the immense size of the U.S. market for children’s products, this demonstrates the overwhelming success of the CPSIA, and noted that CPSIA has been effective because:

    • The lead standards are comprehensive and cover virtually all children’s products and virtually all accessible parts of those products;

    • The standards are straightforward, and the total content lead limits (as opposed to the Republican’s proposed exposure-based standards) allows for testing and material procurement procedures that are accessible, consistent, and affordable; and

    • The lead standards apply to a meaningful definition of “children,” up to age 12.

Cox testified that CEH would strongly oppose any proposal to lower the age range of the law. “Since lead is a cumulative and persistent toxicant, it’s especially important to maintain the 12 and under age requirement of the law,” she said. “This is the best way to prevent exposures as children move into their teenage years, and as girls move into their child bearing years.”

See the CEH testimony and a summary of the testimony.

Read the “discussion draft” legislation is here.

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