Citing an increasing concern over the growing threat of unsafe toys entering the American marketplace, Hillary Clinton today outlined her plan to ensure the safety of toys for children.
Since April, approximately 17 million toys have been recalled in the United States, all made in China. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has overseen a total of 39 toy recalls this year. This summer in particular has seen a series of high-profile recalls of toys imported from China:
- In June, toy giant RC2 recalled 1 million Thomas and Friends trains and rail sets because they were coated in a potentially poisonous lead paint at a factory in China.
- On August 1, Mattel – the world’s largest toymaker – recalled 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys produced in China, also because of concerns about lead paint. The recall included a number of very popular toys, including Elmo, Big Bird, Dora the Explorer, and Diego.
- This week, Mattel recalled 436,000 Chinese-made die-cast toy cars depicting the character “Sarge” from the film “Cars” because they were covered in lead paint. At the same time, it announced that it was recalling 18.2 million other toys because their tiny, powerful magnets could harm children if swallowed. These toys were also made in China. About half of the toys in each of these two recalls – roughly 9 million – were distributed in the United States.
- An August 15 article in The New York Times noted that some vinyl bibs sold in the United States have been shown, in independent laboratory tests, to contain high levels of lead. In May 2007, after being alerted to this danger by the New York and Illinois Attorney Generals, the CPSC concluded that the routine mouthing of these products was not dangerous.
China produces roughly 80 percent of the toys sold in the United States, and most of the toys in the world. American and global toy companies typically contract with a Chinese manufacturer, which in turn subcontracts part of the production to third parties also located in China. Chinese regulators say more than 10,500 toy makers operate in the country. Mattel alone uses more than 3,000 Chinese companies as contractors or as makers of Mattel-branded items.
Hillary has long been an advocate for toy and product safety, and has repeatedly fought for a strong and active CPSC. In 2001, she took the lead in defeating President Bush’s nominee for Chair of the CPSC, Mary Sheila Gall, arguing that as a Commissioner of the agency, Gall’s record in protecting consumers’ interests against corporations had been dismal – including votes over the years against tougher regulation of bunk beds, baby bath seats, and crayons.
And this past March, when President Bush attempted to install Michael Baroody as CPSC chair, Hillary again spoke out with concerns about his commitment to product safety, citing his position as a longtime lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, which opposes aggressive enforcement of consumer safety rules. Baroody also was to receive a $150,000 severance package — roughly equivalent to his annual salary — from the lobbyist group upon his confirmation to the post. Baroody later withdrew his nomination. President Bush has not made a new nomination at this point.
Among the new protections Hillary proposed to ensuring children’s toys are safe are:
Establish a complete ban on lead in children’s toys. In 2007, there is no longer a reason for lead in toys. As President, Hillary would work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Congress to ensure that all children’s products are lead-free.
Require third-party testing for all imported toys in at-risk categories. As President, Hillary would require that, effective immediately, all imported toys in at-risk categories (including those containing paint or magnets) be tested by independent third-party testing organizations to assure they do not contain hazardous substances or otherwise pose serious risks to children, before they can be put on the shelves and sold.
· Over time, a certification and testing program for all toys – imported and domestic – will be phased in.
· Products must meet all mandatory and voluntary standards, must not contain any banned hazardous substances, must not pose safety risks, and must be lead-free.
· No at-risk toys would be permitted to be sold to consumers unless inspected.
· Failure to obtain a certification before putting toys on the shelves would be a prohibited act under federal law.
· This process would involve a cooperative arrangement among manufacturers, importers, and retailers.
· Dedicate additional customs officials at ports of entry to spot check toy shipments when they arrive.
Authorize the CPSC to require that selected companies pay a bond pending completion of independent third-party testing. In order to protect consumers and taxpayers from fly-by-night foreign importers, Hillary would allow the CPSC to require the posting of a bond where there are concerns (1) that the CPSC might have to detain and destroy the shipment and (2) that the company will either disappear or abandon the shipment. The CPSC will have discretion to require the bond.
Double the funding for the CPSC, from $70 million in the Senate bill this year to $140 million, with appropriate increases over the years. As President, Hillary will direct a portion of this money to improving the regulation of imports. In real terms, the current budget of the CPSC is half of what it was in 1977, and CPSC desperately needs more resources to address the growing challenge of unsafe imported toys.
Authorize a three-fold increase in the number of CPSC investigators, compliance staff, and engineers who evaluate products and direct that they be deployed as part of a strategy to meet the threat posed by imported toys. To improve coordination, Customs liaison officers should be appointed to head up cooperative efforts between CPSC and Customs at major points of entry.To improve coordination, Customs liaison officers should be appointed to head up cooperative efforts between CPSC and Customs at major points of entry.
Bring the CPSC laboratory into the 21st century. As President, Hillary would authorize a one-time expenditure – separate from the increased budget – to conduct a complete overhaul and modernization of this critical testing facility, which has not had significant improvements in three decades. She will call on the CPSC to expand the facility to prepare for increased usage based on increased inspections.Strengthen the recall/notification system through three steps:
· Require that simple “recall cards” accompany at-risk categories of toys. These “cards” – which could come in the form of information printed on the package – would provide information for how parents could register online, by phone, orthrough the mail to be directly informed in the event of a recall.· Require that simple “recall cards” accompany at-risk categories of toys. These “cards” – which could come in the form of information printed on the package – would provide information for how parents could register online, by phone, orthrough the mail to be directly informed in the event of a recall.· Increase the number of CPSC investigators who conduct recall verification inspections to ensure that recalled products are being taken off the shelves.
· Modify federal law to: reduce the restrictions on CPSC’s public release of safety information; expand CPSC’s powers to take strong action against a company that refuses to engage in a recall; and give CPSC – not the companies – the power to determine recall remedies.· Modify federal law to: reduce the restrictions on CPSC’s public release of safety information; expand CPSC’s powers to take strong action against a company that refuses to engage in a recall; and give CPSC – not the companies – the power to determine recall remedies.Stiffen penalties for violators through three steps:
· Raise the cap on fines for failure to report known hazards from $1.85 million to $25 million and include a provision that lifts the cap entirely in extraordinary circumstances.· Raise the cap on fines for failure to report known hazards from $1.85 million to $25 million and include a provision that lifts the cap entirely in extraordinary circumstances.· Streamline the civil penalty process to allow the CPSC to impose penalties of up to $5 million administratively rather than through judicial action
· Create a new penalty for retailers who sell products they know to be the subject of a recall.· Create a new penalty for retailers who sell products they know to be the subject of a recall.
Appoint a Chair to lead the Commission who is a true advocate for product safety. Within 60 days of taking office, Hillary will appoint a Chair to lead the Commission and ensure that there is a full complement of commissioners.