Obama Raises Concerns About Lead Contaminated Toys to Industry Trade Group
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to the Mr. Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association, raising concerns about the serious and growing issue of lead contaminated toys. In the letter, Obama requests information on how the trade group and its companies are working to reduce the number of lead contaminated toys, and how American companies are attempting to regulate foreign supply chains. Last week, Obama called on the Senate Commerce Committee to move forward his Lead Free Toys Act of 2007 (S. 1306), which would protect our children from products containing lead. Obama originally introduced this legislation in November 2005.
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. Keithley:
I am writing to you about a critical health issue that is endangering the health of too many children in this nation -- lead poisoning from children products. It is simply unconscionable that lead contaminated products that pose such a serious and significant danger to children are so prevalent in our department stores and markets.
As you know, in 1998 the Toy Industry Association (TIA) pledged that its members would help reduce children's exposure to hazardous lead levels, by going beyond what the law requires and eliminating lead from children's products. This announcement was met with great enthusiasm due to TIA's role as the lead trade association for toy manufacturers, representing about 85 percent of toy sales. Through its partnerships with the federal government, standard development organizations, independent toy safety experts and others, the toy industry has made important progress in developing globally recognized toy safety standards. And yet, despite its efforts, 10 years later we know that millions of children products, including candy, jewelry, bibs, drum sets, toy bears, and gardening sets, are still contaminated with lead.
Just this week, we learned that Fisher-Price, whose parent company is Mattel, is recalling 83 types of toys worldwide because the paint in the toys contains excessive amounts of lead. This worldwide recall involves over 1 million plastic preschool toys, including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters, sold in the United States over the last 3 months. Fortunately, almost two-thirds of these toys were able to be quarantined before they hit the store shelves. But we know that this is not always the case-just one year ago, a 4 year-old child died from lead poisoning after ingesting part of a Reebok bracelet that had a high level of lead.
The Fisher-Price recall is just the latest in a series of high-profile child product warnings or recalls because of lead contamination. In May of this year, for example, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. stopped the sale of Baby Connection brand vinyl baby bibs nationwide because these bibs were found to have lead levels that were more than 16 times higher than the legal limit for lead in paint. Incredibly, over 25 recall and safety notices have been issued in the past six months for potentially lead-contaminated children's products, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported that 20 percent of jewelry poses a potential poisoning hazard.
Increased federal regulatory efforts would be an important step in addressing the problem of lead contaminated toys. To that end, I have introduced the Lead Free Toys Act of 2007, which would give the CPSC the authority to ban children's products containing lead. However, toy manufacturers also play a critical role in reducing lead exposure from toys. I am interested in learning about how TIA and its member companies are dealing with this serious problem. Because many of these products are manufactured abroad, I would also like to know how U.S. companies are attempting to regulate their foreign supply chains.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
United States Senator