NY Consumer Protection Board Finds Toys With Unsafe Lead Levels Remain on Store Shelves

The state Consumer Protection Board’s (CPB) Safe Toys NY Campaign has found that toys with unsafe lead levels remain on store shelves across the state, Governor Eliot Spitzer announced last week. The CPB, with the help of the Departments of Health (DOH) and Agriculture and Markets, conducted sweeps of more than 2,800 stores looking for recalled products and found approximately 620 recalled toy items still on the shelves.

The CPB launched Safe Toys NY, a massive public awareness campaign, in November to assist consumers in discerning the safety of toys, to educate consumers, inform toy makers and retailers about safety issues, and ensure that recalled toys were removed from store shelves. The CPB sent letters to retailers, including thrift stores, urging them to be extra-vigilant, evaluate all toys being sold or donated against recall lists, and post recall notices conspicuously in their stores. The CPB also called for auction sites to bar the posting and sale of recalled toys.

The Governor is also calling on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to immediately issue a national recall of newly identified products found during investigations and is calling for the CPB to draft legislation to create and improve standards in the industry and better inform and protect consumers.

Governor Spitzer’s call to the CPSC seems futile in light of the opposition of CPSC head Nancy Nord to a Senate bill that would increase the budget and authority of the Commision to regulate consumer products such as children’s toys, and the revelation that since 2002 Chairman Nord, as well as her predecessor, Hal Stratton, enjoyed nearly 30 trips totaling nearly $60,000.00 that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufactures of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants.

In August of this year, with mounting recalls of toys and other products, Governor Spitzer directed the state CPB to launch a full-scale campaign around toy safety, and announced initiatives to help keep lead-contaminated and hazardous toys off store shelves.

Governor Spitzer has also asked the state’s Consumer Protection Board to draft proposed legislation, which would do the following: 1. Impose penalties against businesses that sell recalled products; 2. Require recalled products distributed in New York State to be disposed of appropriately; 3. Call for manufacturers to certify their disposition to prevent the items from surfacing on the Internet or at a second-hand stores; 4. Require certain manufacturers to establish a notification system when recalling products and mandating that retailers post recall notices in a conspicuous fashion; and, 5. Require product labeling to identify product manufacturer as well as the distributor and/or importer.

Three tainted toys, all bought in dollar stores and made in China, had paint that exceeded the federal standard of lead levels allowed in paint, which is 600 parts per million (0.06 wt% lead). The three toys are “Army Force”, “Sprite Tractor Trailer”, and “Wrestle Mania” action figures. The toys also had no identification numbers on the packaging.

About 5,000 children a year are diagnosed with lead poisoning in New York State – mostly from lead paint in older housing. Lead exposure in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches. Most children with lead poisoning usually do not look or feel sick. The Public Health Law requires health-care providers to screen all children by blood testing for lead exposure at ages 1 and 2. Elevated levels of lead in blood occur when children put paint chips, lead paint dust, lead-painted toys, or other objects in their mouths.

Consumers are urged not to use home lead test kits to evaluate products for potential lead hazards because studies have shown that none of these methods consistently detected lead in products, particularly if the lead was covered with a non-leaded coating.

Information about recalls and the entire Safe Toys NY program is available on the CPB’s website at www.nysconsumer.gov, which is updated daily. The public is urged to participate in the program by providing recall feedback to recallfeedback@nysconsumer.gov or e-mailing the CPB at toytesting@consumer.state.ny.us to advocate for toy testing by manufacturers, retailers and others. CPB also encourages the public to become a Consumer Crusader by using the Agency’s Toy Safety Inventory Checklist to catalog their toys so they can be better prepared in advance of a recall. Recalls are also posted on the DOH website at www.health.state.ny.us.

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