Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toxic toys found in Illinois

Illinois PIRG (a public advocacy group) recently released a report on toy toxicity.

The research team selected 87 toys different toys for testing, all purchased at either Target, Toys' R Us, Claire's Boutique or Dollar Tree. They focused on four types of chemicals: lead, phthalates, bromine and cadmium.

The results were eye-opening. They found 18 toys with lead, 6 of which exceeded the 300 ppm federal limit. A cell phone charm from Claire's even had as much as 710,000 ppm, and a toy duck from Dollar Tree contained 34,000 parts per million. Two other toys (also from Claire's) violated federal levels for phthalates, a Little Princess handbag and an Elmo's lunchbox. And they also found 32 products with bromine, and 2 with cadmium.

Lead and phthalates can severely affect children's cognitive and physical development, and are banned under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. Bromine and cadmium, on the other hand, are thought to be potentially dangerous, but are not yet regulated by the government. Some research has connected bromine (used in flame retardants) with thyroid complications, most threatening to pregnant women and children. Cadmium is a known carcinogen that is linked to various illnesses from nausea, to kidney damage to lung cancer.

To keep your children safe, make sure to stay in tune with recalls and product safety tests. For recall information you may visit the CPSC website. And for more information on toxic chemicals in products, you should visit

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A pledge for greater cooperation at a U.S-China product safety summit

On October 21 Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), delivered a keynote address at the biennial product safety summit held between the United States and China. It marked the fourth time that CPSC and AQSIC (China's national standards and inspections body) have met to enhance intergovernmental cooperation and to improve the efficacy of joint regulation.

The theme of this year's summit, "promoting best practices by Chinese manufacturers and U.S. importers to maximize product safety", underlies CPSC's approach to create a partnership based on communication and mutual accountability. "We must work as global partners", said Tenenbaum, "to create a systematic approach to ensuring product safety, from raw materials to the finished product, from the toy factory in Shanghai, to the toy importer in San Francisco, to the toy store in Seattle."

Tenenbaum placed special on emphasis on toy safety (lead paint in particular), noting the "new paradigm for standards" that emerged with the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). She cited the stricter lead paint limits (90 ppm) and the mandatory child product testing program enacted under the new law.

There's reason to believe that the American-Chinese relationship may bear fruit. According to Tenenbaum, toy recalls decreased from 80 to 40 per year between the 2008-2009 fiscal years. Of these, lead violations decreased from 40 to 16 per year during that time period. It also appears that AQSIC (China's regulatory body) has become more determined in promoting and enforcing product safety. They've closed thousands of non-complying Chinese manufacturers, and have become more willing to exchange information and to promote America's "best practices" throughout the manufacturing community.

But all of this is just the beginning. Tenenbaum reiterates the U.S. goal "to have no toy recalls and no lead paint violations," and adds that "we are certainly moving in the right direction."

Tenenbaum will continue her diplomatic efforts to bolster international cooperation this Wednesday in Toronto. There she will speak at the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization's annual symposium and discuss ways that Canada and the U.S. can better harmonize product safety standards.

Update: View Chairman Tenenbaum's ICPHSO address in Toronto.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The dangers of car seats - out of the car

A new study by Dr. Shital Parikh indicates that car seats should be used carefully outside of cars. Babies can fidget and tip themselves over when placed on improper surfaces. And, if the restraints aren't used, babies can fall from the carrier while being carried or placed on a raised surface. Between 2003-2007 over 40,000 babies were sent to the emergency room after falling from (in their car seats) counters, tables, sofas or beds. Many serious fractures were reported and 3 infants died. In addition to injuries from falls, babies can suffocate if they fall on a soft surface or strangle on the restraints.

Dr. Parikh emphasizes that car seats may not be safe for use outside the car and that manufacturers should be more effective in warning parents of misuse and in designing seats with more stability.

For more information on the study, please visit's article. And for more general information on car seat usage please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

On October 6th the U.S. Senate unanimously designated this week, October 18-24, 2009, as National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Lead paint is one of the most common, yet preventable threats to our children. Exposure can cause severe physiological and cognitive defects. Every year dozens of toys are recalled for exceeding permitted levels of lead paint. It's estimated that 240,000 children under the age of 6 in the U.S. have harmful levels of lead in their blood.

With the passage of the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), Congress began to regulate lead paint with much stricter standards. In the past year Congress has initiated a reductions schedule that currently allows only 300 ppm (parts per million) and may drop to 100 ppm by August 2011. In addition, many types of products are now required to undergo mandatory 3rd party testing, proving the absence of lead.

The most common source of lead for children is still from housing stock painted with lead-tainted paint before the 1970's. All children under six should have their lead levels checked regularly by a doctor.

Visit here for more information on lead poisoning. For information on lead recalls, you may visit the CPSC's website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mattel agrees to multi-million dollar settlement

On October 13th, a preliminary settlement of as much as $50 million was announced in a class action suit against Mattel and its subsidiary, Fisher Price.

The class action suit was filed on behalf of millions of American families who purchased dangerous toys recalled in 2006 and 2007. These 14 million toys were recalled for excessive levels of lead paint or for small loose magnets that cause extreme internal damage or death if swallowed. Some of Mattel's most popular toys, like Polly Pocket, Barbie and Dora the Explorer, were included in the recalls.

Terms of the settlement, if accepted by the court, will include refunds for those who bought the products as well as reimbursement for medical expenses for lead testing and donations to the national network of children's hospitals.

Local efforts to ban drop-side cribs prevail

On October 13th the Suffolk County legislature (NY) unanimously voted to prohibit the sale of drop-side cribs throughout the county. The vote followed a passionate plea from Susan Cirigilano, a mother who lost her 6-month-old baby boy from suffocation in a defective crib in 2004.

Drop-side cribs with a vertically adjusting side continue to kill babies every year, but still haven't been banned on the national level. Wayne Horsley, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, hopes that surrounding counties and the state legislature itself pass similar bans in the coming months. The County Executive must sign the measure, but must first hold a public hearing, expected later this month.

ASTM (a national standards body), is moving towards the publication of the industry's new voluntary standard which will include a provision requiring fixed sides on cribs. CPSC will be developing a new mandatory crib standard that may include the ban, but that won't be out until 2011.

For more background information, you may visit the Chicago Tribune's recent article.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CPSC responds to GAO report on minority children and injury

Recently, the CPSC responded to a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that suggests that minority children may have higher rates of preventable injuries and deaths associated with children products. GAO noted that better data collection and assessment of consumer information efforts could help protect minority children. GAO also looked at what actions the CPSC had taken through its public information and education initiatives to minimize the occurrence of these particular injuries and deaths.

In response, the CPSC has implemented and begun to explore a number of ways to improve their data collections efforts including:

  • Transforming NEISS data collection software with respect to racial and ethnic classification
  • Presenting materials on the importance of collecting standardized race and ethnicity when conducting on-site evaluations and training
  • Leveraging data collection efforts of other government agencies to gather consumer product-related death and injury data involving minority children and
  • Exploring ways to collect race and ethnicity data from consumer complaints received through their web site and/or hotline.

Furthermore, CPSC will continue its current outreach strategies and has activities planned for 2010 including:

  • An outreach tour in major cities with extremely diverse populations to provide safety messaging in large community settings
  • A community-based outreach plan to grassroots organizations that target diverse populations
  • A public awareness campaign, using bilingual (English and Spanish) messages and materials, to raise awareness of the new public database.
  • Drowning prevention campaign, including passing out materials to key Spanish

For more information, read the full report at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bathtubs, Bathseats, Buckets are Biggest Drowning Danger

As summer comes to an end and outdoor pools become a memory, parents and caregivers tend to put the fear of a drowning accident to the back of their mind. CPSC reminds families that drowning is not simply a seasonal concern. "For 2003-2005, CPSC staff received reports of an average of 90 children younger than 5 years of age drowned in bathtubs (62%), baby seats or bathinettes (15%), buckets and pails (11%), landscaping or yard products (6%) and other products (4%)."

The full article, CPSC Warns of In-Home Drowning Dangers with Bathtubs, Bathseats, Buckets reminds parents the importance of water safety and goes over key preventative measures to ensure children's security. Simple, yet important tips like never leaving your child alone near water and keeping your child within arm's reach when in a bathtub are outlined. Reminders are also given-- children do not need to be submerged in water to drown! While the CPSC report contains information about baby bath seats, KID recommends against their use because of the increased likelihood that a baby will be left alone in a tub with the device.

Recalled water products may increase the likelihood of an accident. Being aware of any recently recalled items and following the Consumer Product Safety Commission's bath safety guidelines will help families to be safe and at ease all year round.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

National Fire Prevention Week -- check for products with burn or fire hazards

It being National Fire Prevention Week, we'd like to reemphasize the threat fire or burns can pose to your children and to offer some advice on protecting them.

Many safety groups have great tips for avoiding fire and burn injuries. Here are just a few..
  • Never leave the stove or oven unattended in a child's presence.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 ft away from all curtains, papers or clothing.
  • Make sure there are smoke detectors in all bedrooms and throughout the home (test them monthly).
But being careful ourselves is unfortunately not enough. Unsafe children's products can also present a burn or fire danger. A Kids In Danger report found that between 2002-2007 there were 40 child product recalls for fire and burn hazards, with toys (47%) and clothing (30%) taking up the lion's share. Most injuries during this period resulted from battery failure, but flammability and electric failure are also serious concerns. The Hasbro Easy-Bake oven, for instance, had the highest number of injuries (87) throughout the five-year period. Also watch out for ignitable clothing, especially during the Halloween season. Tragedies do happen, so make sure your child's costume is made of flame-resistant materials.

These dangerous products could still be in your home, even if they'd been formally recalled years ago. To be safe, take an inventory of all children's products in your home and visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website to check their recall status or call their hotline at (800) 638-2772.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Target to pay $600,000 for a lead paint violation

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has alleged that Target knowingly imported and sold various toys -including Anima and Sunny Patch Chairs- with federally prohibited levels of lead paint.

CPSC has provisionally accepted a $600,000 penalty settlement, noting that retailers and importers will be held to the same standards as manufacturers.

Target has voluntarily recalled the toys and denies all allegations of lawful misconduct.

Consumer Reports offers new safety alert website

On September 28th Consumer Reports (CR) released a new website specifically geared towards child safety. To promote their new resource CR has teamed up with the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and National School Board Association (NSBA). The PTA and NSBA have promised to inform their members about the new alert system, which could potentially help millions of parents receive timely information about child product recalls.

The site aggregates all child-relevant recall notices from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Apart from the alerts, CR provides a whole host of useful, category-specific safety videos, such as this one on safety gates.

For more information, you may also want to visit, which lists all federal recalls and provides a portal to the CPSC, FDA and NHTSA.

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