New Measures Will Improve Children’s Product Safety

August 27, 2008

Products designed for New York State’s smallest consumers will get a safety boost from both a federal law signed this month by President Bush and a new state law once Governor Paterson signs it.

Consumer advocates dubbed 2007 the “year of the recall” after almost 30 million toys and 15 million non-toy children’s products were recalled due to lead content or choking, strangling or other hazards. However, when the New York State Consumer Protection Board and other New York State agencies conducted a sweep to investigate compliance with the U.S. Product Safety Commission recalls last summer, they identified 400 stores that carried one or more of the recalled items. It is safe to assume that many more of the hazardous products remain in the homes of unsuspecting users, perhaps to be passed on to a new generation of children.

With evidence that voluntary compliance with recalls has not done a good enough job of getting dangerous toys, cribs, high chairs, and other children’s products off the shelves and out of the stores, we in the State Legislature in June approved the New York State “Children’s Product Safety and Recall Effectiveness Act of 2008.” It will require manufacturers of products for children and juveniles to notify consumers, distributors, retailers, the state Attorney General and the Consumer Protection Board of any recalls or warnings.

Once retailers are notified of a recall, they must remove the recalled product from their shelves and Web sites within 24 hours, and post recall notices and warnings where they will be readily seen by customers. In order to facilitate notice to those who have already purchased recalled durable juvenile products (cribs and toddler beds, high chairs, playpens, strollers, car seats and the like), manufacturers will be required to include a product safety card so that owners can supply their contact information. Children’s products will also need labels giving lot and batch numbers and contact information for manufacturers and importers.

The new U.S. “Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008” hopefully will help make children’s products safer before they are offered for sale. Among its other provisions, this new federal law bans lead and six types of phthalates (chemicals used to soften plastics) from children’s products. It also brings much-needed additional federal resources and clout to the fight we are waging on both the federal and state levels to protect children from the dangers that have been too often posed by products designed to help entertain and care for them.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that unsafe products, including toys, are implicated in 28,000 deaths and 33 million injuries annually in the United States. We can and should do better, and that is especially important to the youngest and most vulnerable among us. This summer, we have made strong advances in that direction.