Federal Law a Tribute to Participatory Government

By Carter Keithley
President, Toy Industry Association

August 2008

With his approval of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the President has signed into law aggressive legislation that strengthens the safety of all consumer products in America---including toys. The legislation creates new safety standards, imposes mandatory toy safety testing to assure standards are met, and improves the recall system through a new product tracking mechanism.  It also bolsters the Consumer Product Safety Commission with added funding and authority to help it fulfill its mission to protect American consumers.

Over the course of just ten months, the U.S. Congress heard the concerns of consumers and public interest advocates; examined scientific evidence relating to potential safety hazards; studied current supply chains and safety systems; and listened to industry engineers about the best ways to further enhance product safety.  The swift adoption of such a major piece of legislation, and the development of solid and sensible compromises on difficult issues, is a credit to our participatory system of government, the wisdom of our Members of Congress, and the sophistication of their staffs.  Consumers can feel confident in the added safety assurances that the legislation provides.

The toy industry is proud to have played a responsible role in this process.  The Toy Safety Certification Program (TSCP), which our industry is developing with the help of safety authorities, will help to quickly fulfill the requirements of the new legislation.  The new law and the efforts of the toy industry to quickly conform will provide necessary reassurances to consumers that toys sold in America this holiday season and in the future are safe for their children.  The toy industry takes seriously its responsibility for the safety of its products. 

Here are some highlights of this important safety legislation:

  • All toys must be certified as safe, based on testing by accredited laboratories following standardized testing procedures. 
  • Existing “voluntary” toy safety standards now gain the force of Federal law. 
  • A new limit for the total lead content in children’s products. 
  • The use of phthalates to soften the plastic used in some children’s products will be controlled at the national level pending a requirement for additional study to re-evaluate their safety. 
  • Tracking labels or other identifying marks will be required on toys so that, should a safety issue arise, affected toys can be identified and recalled more easily.

A strengthened and invigorated Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is a major focus of the Act, is also a worthwhile outcome in the legislation.  But Americans should not think that it is the CPSC’s mission to pre-screen all consumer products sold in the U.S.  Our nation has long benefited from a robust and flexible system involving independent safety verifiers that enable tens of thousands of new consumer products to be brought safely to market each year.  The CPSC is a backstop and ultimate authority supporting that system, and it needs to have the manpower and resources to fulfill that mission.  The legislation recognizes this – and that, conversely, a top-down governmental approval system for consumer products would neither be an efficient – or effective – system.

Over the past 12 months since the first major recalls, the toy industry has undertaken unprecedented level of inspections and re-inspections to help ensure toys on shelves this coming holiday season are safe. The toy industry promises our continued commitment to making safe toys and our constant vigilance to making it right.

That is our pledge.