Hot Topic: Toy Safety

Who's Doing What to Help?

The President

President Bush has called for measures to strengthen the CPSC's authority by making it illegal for companies to knowingly sell a recalled product; by authorizing the agency to issue follow-up recall notices; and by requiring companies to report detailed information about recalled products. Bush also wants to establish a certification program for companies with a track record for meeting safety standards. In addition, he's called for increased monitoring of countries and companies known for not meeting safety standards and increased penalties for violating U.S. import laws. He also wants more training for overseas inspectors.

Critics say: This is a good start, but the CPSC needs an infusion of more federal money -- and more manpower -- so it can adequately monitor the safety of products on the market.

Congress

The CPSC Reform Act of 2007, which at press time had been approved by a Senate committee, would more than double the agency's budget from $62.4 million to $141.7 million by 2015, increase staffing levels by nearly 20 percent, increase the maximum fine on companies from $1.8 million to $100 million, and give the agency greater authority. The bill also calls for more testing of children's products, bans lead in children's products, and (like the president's proposal) makes it illegal to knowingly sell a recalled product. Another version of the bill is in the works in the House of Representatives.

Critics say: In its current form, such a law would overburden the CPSC. They think that most of the responsibility for monitoring products for safety should be on toy manufacturers -- not on the government.

The States

Local political leaders are also taking action. Some states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and California, are considering or have recently passed legislation to bolster lead testing and safety requirements for toys and jewelry made for children. Eight states currently have laws to prohibit the sale of any recalled items.

Critics say: While it's good that states are looking after their residents, it's best to have federal laws. Regulations that vary by state can be challenging for manufacturers and retailers.

The Toy Industry

Manufacturers have been very aggressive in issuing voluntary recalls when they learn about unsafe products. They have also announced that they will conduct more stringent testing of their products and impose rigorous standards on imported goods. Some retailers, such as Toys "R" Us, have called for further testing of the products they stock.

Critics say: Although these efforts are laudable, the proposed safeguards are inadequate. Manufacturers need another layer of enforcement by outsiders to ensure safety.

Who do you think should take responsibility? Share your thoughts by clicking on "comment" at the top of this article.

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