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Letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins


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Obama Calls for Investigation into Series of Toy Recalls

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today asked the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate the series of toy recalls caused by lead paint in children's toys sold in the United States. Yesterday, Mattel announced its third recall of toys manufactured in China in less than two months.

Obama has introduced the Lead Free Toys Act (S. 1306) to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with the authority to ban children's products containing lead as hazardous substances. Obama is also the sponsor of the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act (S. 1811) which requires that all non-home-based child care facilities, including Head Start program locations and kindergarten classrooms, be lead-safe within five years. In August, Senator Obama called on President Bush to immediately nominate a chairman to the CPSC who will be a forceful advocate for the interests of American parents and requested a funding increase for the Commission to protect America's children from lead contaminated toys

Below is a copy of the letter Senator Obama sent today to Chairman Lieberman and Senator Collins:

September 5, 2007

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman

The Honorable Susan M. Collins
Ranking Member

340 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Senate Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Lieberman and Senator Collins:

I read with great interest Senator Collins' press release last week that her staff would be looking into the problem of lead-contaminated children products in the United States. Given the scope of this problem - and the millions of Chinese-made toys recalled in recent months - I applaud Senator Collins' initiative and leadership.

However, I believe that the importance of this issue merits a full investigation by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The safety of our children is a top priority, and the first step we must take to reverse this dangerous trend is to get the facts. That's why I believe that the Committee should examine whether federal agencies - in particular the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) - have taken all necessary steps to protect our children from dangerous products manufactured abroad and, if not, whether these agencies require additional statutory authority.

Just yesterday, Mattel, Inc. announced a recall of 700,000 Chinese-made toys, including Barbie accessory toys and Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys because they violate federal lead paint standards. This recall marks Mattel's third major recall in less than two months, which highlights the seriousness and the scope of this problem and the risk to children.

The CPSC leads our national efforts to safeguard our children from potentially dangerous objects. However, handicapped by inadequate funding, a staffing shortage, and the lack of a chairman, the Commission has dragged its feet in aggressively addressing the problem of lead in toys. In both the 109th and 110th Congress, I have introduced the Lead Free Toys Act, which requires the CPSC to issue regulations classifying any children's product containing more than a trace amount of lead as a banned hazardous substance under the Hazardous Substances Act and to issue standards for lead reduction in electronics.

In addition to this legislative effort, I have sent letters expressing my concerns about lead-contaminated toys to the White House, the United States Trade Representative, and the Toy Industry Association and requested information about their efforts to protect American consumers from these dangerous products. I have also worked closely with Congressman Waxman to investigate the prevalence of this problem. In December 2006, we released a report showing that a number of the souvenirs sold in the U.S. Capitol gift shops contained high levels of lead; these items have since been removed from store shelves.

If you agree that a Committee-sanctioned investigation is appropriate, please let me know if my staff can be of assistance. If you have any questions, you can contact my health policy advisor Dora Hughes at 224-2854. Thank you for attention to this important matter.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

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