One Monday night in February 2007, Tate and Wendy Leisy's three-year-old son Tegan said his belly hurt. He started vomiting, and believing he had poked his belly with some scissors, they took him to the emergency room.
They never considered the possibility of Tegan swallowing, over time, a bunch of magnets that had fallen out of some of his toys -- toys that had been recalled before they bought them. Surgeons worked to repair 11 holes in Tegan's intestinal tract and removed six inches of his intestines in a procedure that dragged on for hours.
Tegan is okay now, but he could face problems for the rest of his life. It could be a year from now, six years or twenty. Not knowing is one of the hardest things about this episode in the Leisy family's lives.
Stories like this one prompted federal lawmakers to pass the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008, a vital law that helps keep unsafe toys and other children's products off the shelves. The CPSIA required that children's products be tested for safety before they arrive on store shelves. It set strong limits on lead in children's products and created tougher standards for infant product and toy safety. The CPSIA also banned certain phthalates, which are chemicals that have been found in products like teething rings and linked to a variety of health risks. In addition, the law created a public database where consumers could easily report safety problems with toys and other products.
The CPSIA, approved by Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and signed in to law by President Bush, was a direct response to the recall of millions of toys and children's products for excessive lead, ingestion hazards from tiny magnets, and other health risks.
But a bill now under consideration in Congress could undermine the law and ultimately allow children's products that the CPSIA deemed hazardous to return to store shelves near you.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is preparing to consider a bill that would poke some serious holes in the product safety net. At Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, we feel that the proposal reverses key components of the law that aim to keep kids safe.
Here is a breakdown of just some of the ways we and other leading consumer groups feel this bill would put consumers at risk:
1. The bill undermines safety testing for children's products: It would reverse the requirement that all children's products be tested for safety, and would confine the requirement of pre-market testing to only a few select categories of products.
2. The bill undermines lead protections: It would erode consumer confidence that children's products do not contain toxic levels of lead. The CPSIA required all parts of children's products to comply with a single, unambiguous standard for lead content. The draft bill would replace that clarity with a variety of standards that will be different depending on when the product was manufactured, the age of the child for whom the product is designed, whether it contains small parts, and other factors.
3. The bill undermines the effectiveness of the new crib safety standard: It could potentially allow unsafe cribs to stay in child care facilities indefinitely.
4. The bill undermines the new public database for people to report and read about product safety problems: The new CPSC database, at www.saferproducts.gov, for the first time allows consumer complaints about product safety problems to be posted publicly. However, the provisions in this legislation would place onerous burdens on the person making the complaint, thereby discouraging parties with valuable safety information from reporting.
The Leisy family's experience shouldn't happen to another child.
If you don't want Congress to take us back to the days when kids were test products for safety, take action and contact your representative. Tell them to keep the CPSIA strong and not to undermine the safety of toys and other children's products.
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