Washington state lawmakers, upset at what they see as dithering in Congress over the issue of toy safety, have just sent a powerful message to consumers and the industry. They overwhelmingly passed tough new toy standards, and Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign them into law.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the bill would reduce the allowable level of lead in toys and other goods to 90 parts per million -- and possibly as low as 40 parts per million, the recommended limit of the American Academy of Pediatrics. That is far below the current federal standard of 600 parts per million. The law would also establish limits on the toxic heavy metal cadmium and controversial phthalates, which are used as plastic softeners.
Phthalates are already scheduled for a ban in California for next year. Claiming that they "threaten the health and safety of our children at critical stages of their development," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law that will ban their use in toys designed for children under the age of 3. The European Union already has restrictions on phthalates in place.
Washington isn't the only blue state that is in the process of passing stricter toy standards, or that already passed them. Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, New York and a few others are also tightening safety. Washington would have the strictest limit on lead, however.
Not surprisingly, the toy industry is up in arms about what's happening in the states. They argue (sensibly) that differing standards would make their business a nightmare, and complain about the costs of certification under the Washington law. Some manufacturers are even claiming that they will no longer ship to the Evergreen State.
However, it should give parents serious reason to pause if the Journal is correct in their reporting that Mattel and Hasbro lobbyists complained to Washington's governor that half of Fisher-Price toys would currently fail to meet the new standards.
Given the industry's embarrassing safety record, exposed over the past year, it is clear that government must do more to protect children from toxic toys. Manufacturers need to clean up their act and start changing the way they do business. Is it really too much to ask that children not be given playthings that could harm their developing brains?
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