SACRAMENTO – The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that several of the largest toymakers in America agreed to comply with the Federal toy lead standards for the upcoming holiday season. The Federal standards, though adopted earlier year, do not take legal effect until February. In settling a lawsuit brought by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Mattel, Fisher-Price, RC2, A & A Global Industries, Cranium Inc., Eveready Battery Co., Marvel Entertainment, Toy & Investments, Kids II and Amscan agreed to stop manufacturing toys that do not meet the Federal lead standards by this Monday.
The manufacturers also agreed to contribute $500,000 to fund the testing of toys. If toys are found to have lead contents that exceed the Federal limits, the manufacturer is to notify the California Attorney General’s office and the retailer. Interestingly, the agreement does not require the manufacturer to pull the toys from the shelves. In addition, the retailers named in the lawsuit did not settle and are not bound by this agreement.
This, of course, is a positive step towards the elimination of lead contents in the toys that are sold on American shelves. It seems to us that the amount offered for funding the testing is a drop in the bucket. This is particularly true in light of the vast number of foreign manufactured toys that inundate American store shelves during the holiday season. It is startling to see the number of toys recalled by the U.S. Consumer Protection Agency each week because of lead content.
Another disturbing development is that many, if not most, of the toys found with high lead contents are very inexpensive and are marketed to the lowest economic strata. They are found at "$1.00" stores and the like, and are often selling for less than $1-2. For twenty dollars, twenty different kids can be exposed to the toxic leads. Who is monitoring this?
The new Federal standard gives us hope, but enforcement is the key. Americans should be confident when they go into a store to select a toy for their child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor that the toy is safe! What could be more basic? And yet, millions of lead containing toys continue to flood into our market. This is because there is practically no recourse against the off-shore manufacturers under current law. As long as Congress ignores this reality, these low-priced products will continue to fast-track into our stores and homes.