It's that time of year again. The holidays are fast approaching, and families across America are starting their shopping.
As any parent or grandparent knows, there are few greater rewards than seeing the smile spread across a child's face as they open the perfect present. But we also know how quickly that great joy can devolve into our greatest fear if the appropriate attention isn't paid to safety.
Fortunately, this year, you can shop for your child or grandchild with more confidence than ever before. That's because there are new rules on your side and the side of America's children -- and because we here at the Consumer Product Safety Commission are working tirelessly to protect you. As a result, recalls are being reduced and toys are safer than ever.
We all remember the lead paint problems involving Thomas the Train and Fisher Price recalls. Well, this year, the legal limits for the amount of lead paint on toys dropped to some of lowest limits in the world. For the first time ever, new federal rules also put strict limits on how much total lead can be in toys and all children's products. And toys now have to be independently tested and certified that they meet the new lead paint limits.
The new safety rules also put limits on three phthalates -- chemicals that many parents have been concerned about - from being in toys with mouthable parts. And they turned voluntary United States toy standards to mandatory standards, because we know that stronger standards can save lives.
If you're reading this and wondering exactly what these new rules and regulations mean for you, here's the bottom line: This year, when you walk into a toy store anywhere in America, you can be assured that there are more protections in place for you and your children than ever before.
For proof, just look at the numbers and see that we're headed in the right direction. So far this year, there have been 38 toy recalls -- down from 162 in 2008 and 148 in 2007. There have been 15 recalls involving lead, down from 63 in 2007 and 85 in 2008.
Also, rather than recalling a product once it is in the stream of commerce, CPSC is stopping products at the ports.
Now, I know that even with these new protections, many parents still have concerns about Chinese made products. That's why, as your representative, I've already been to China and Southeast Asia twice in my first four months as Chairman.
I've spoken to government officials and manufacturers about building safety into children's products and about making products that meet the high standards in the United States. I've reminded them that safety and trade are interwoven.
Rest assured that the Chinese are taking toy safety seriously. In fact, the Chinese government closed down numerous toy factories after the wave of U.S. recalls, and both CPSC and the Chinese government are educating toy makers about our new rules.
But even with the extraordinary effort we are making to protect you and your children, it's important to also remember that government can't do it alone. Tragic deaths and injuries still occur each year with riding toys and balloons and batteries and small balls. That's why parents and grandparents need to remain vigilant about toy safety in the home.
Really make sure you purchase toys that are appropriate for the age of your child. You know your child: get them toys they can play with now. And always be sure to keep younger children away from the toys of older siblings.
The CPSC has a number of free services to help you stay vigilant and informed about toy recalls and hazards. So go to CPSC.gov to sign for our e-mail alerts, follow us on Twitter, and check out our new OnSafety blog. And remember: CPSC Stands For Safety, especially the safety of your children.
Follow Inez Moore Tenenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OnSafety