Expensive hassle or necessary precaution?

Leah Mulaly

Arsenic and lead and phthalates, oh my! These days, children are in much more danger of getting poisoned than they are of being eaten by lions and tigers and bears.

A third of 1,500 toys tested were found to have medium to high levels of dangerous chemicals, such as lead. The liable corporations, such as Mattel Inc., used lead paint instead of a safe paint because it’s cheaper, despite being aware of lead’s toxicity.

“I don’t understand why companies think putting lead in products is a good idea, if they know how dangerous it is,” Anastasia Belock, sophomore, said.

Because the responsible Chinese officials were aware of the danger, they were executed.

An additional repercussion of the lead scare is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), active February 10, 2009. It requires every product intended for kids 12 years old and younger be tested for lead and six certain phthalates, and that each product carries a certificate proving that it passed the tests. The phthalates ban only applies to products made on or after February 10, 2009, but the lead ban is retroactive. This means that untested kids’ products are illegal, regardless of when they were made. Restrictions on the amount of lead a product can contain will decrease gradually. Currently any accessible part of a product cannot have more than 600 parts of lead per million. On August 14, 2009, this number will drop to 300 ppm, and 100 ppm later on. Kids’ products also cannot contain more than 0.1 percent of the six phthalates. The law applies to kid’s products and child care articles imported, manufactured for sale, sold, and traded.  

“I think it’s brilliant,” Caitlin Easley, freshman, said. “I’m tired of hearing things on the news about kids swallowing things and becoming poisoned. It’s a pain for the parents, and the toy manufacturers. If the FDA must test anything we consume, then toys and other things should be tested as well. I mean, kids put absolutely everything in their mouths.”

However, there is debate over whether the CPSIA is beneficial or not because it could easily put small artisan toymakers out of business, due to the expense and impracticality of testing every toy they make. As the CPSIA is written right now, all toys are required to be tested even if the materials that the toy was made from had already been tested and approved.

“It seems very hard to follow through with,” Eric Johnson, junior, said.

 The CPSIA encompasses much more than just toys— kids’ clothes, furniture, and books all have strict regulations now. Clothes intended for kids age 12 and under containing metallic thread, Swarovski crystals (almost completely lead), or plastic parts are required to be tested for lead. These items intended for children age three and under are required to be testing for phthalates as well. Books printed before 1985 are now banned, a precaution against the possibility of lead paint used in the illustrations.

“I think they’re being scared,” Ben Shaw, junior, said.

Another weakness of the CPSIA is that resale shops are not required to test their products already in inventory, but are also not allowed to sell items that exceed the 600 ppm of lead. If they do sell such products, they could face criminal and/or civil penalties. The CPSIA could even affect the average citizen by making it illegal to sell untested kids’ items at yard sales.

“Anything used… could possibly be illegal, meaning you must buy name-brand corporate crap for your kids,” David Jacobson, freshman, said. 

Because of this, legislation to amend the CPSIA is currently being reviewed. The amendments would allow small toymakers to use the certification from their previously tested materials instead of testing their finished product. The proposal would also exempt resellers from the rules and prevent the CPSIA from being enforced on products made before the law was passed. 

Many people hope that the CPSIA will be amended to be less strict on small companies, making it possible for them to stay in business. The merits and drawbacks of the CPSIA will be debated until a final decision is made, a time greatly anticipated by U.S. citizens.