If you didn't believe that politics influences our supposedly independent regulatory agencies, then perhaps Nancy Nord's latest pronouncement will convince you. Or perhaps not. In any event, Nancy Nord, Acting Chairman of the U.S. Consumper Products Safety Commission ("CPSC"), doesn't want to further regulate lead in children's toys. Speaking to the National Retail Federation on May 13, 2008, she said a new federal standard limiting lead in children's products "might prove to be overly broad."
Overly broad? Is she for real? Unlike the debate swirling around bisphenol A leaching from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins lining canned foods and beverage, no person disputes lead's toxicity. No one claims that lead is safe. Quite the contrary. Research shows that exposure to even low levels of lead severely impacts children's development. If you need to catch up on the health effects, read here.
Ms. Nord was addressing the National Retail Federation at its 73rd annual Washington Leadership Conference. She was the keynote speaker. She was commenting on the proposed lead limits contained in a product safety bill currently being considered by Congress. The bill would require CPSC to set a standard limiting lead in children's products to 100 parts per million for the content and 90 parts per million for paint or coatings. Just for reference – currently there is NO FEDERAL STANDARD for lead in children's toys and jewelry. There is a federal limit for paints and coatings used on children's toys – that is 600 ppm.
Why her comments? It isn't a matter of not being able to meet the proposed standards. Some big retailers, such as Toys R Us, have already imposed limits of 90 ppm for coatings used in toys purchased from their suppliers.
So what is her issue? Who knows. But since I do toy testing, I can tell you that at least 20% of the toys I test routinely fail the existing standard. I even had a toy drumstick (for a toy drum) that was yellow color plastic (not painted or coated) test at 45,000 ppm. Hey, Nancy, would you like your child to be mouthing that item?