New Lead-Governing Laws Leave Toys Homeless

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Photo: Several newly-manufactured toys will never find an owner, due to stronger lead laws that some critics consider “overzealous.” Credit: FlickR.

On February 10, children’s toys won’t find new, loving homes. Instead, the latest lead-governing legislature will cause several unsold toys, books, bikes and clothes to take a one-way trip to the scrap heap.

Any toys that aren’t certified as “safe” under these lead regulations can’t stay on the shelf. When the legislature was passed in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained the strict enforcement waiting for toy stores across the country: “With this legislation, we will not only be recalling, we will be removing those products from the shelves.”

A Wall Street Journal article describes the law as “overzealous”:

After last year’s scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.

That’s why certain groups are looking for ways to derail the potential economic train wreck. NationalBankruptcyDay.com covers the financial hits for small businesses on a daily basis, cataloging the extra costs for these smaller companies. Entrepreneurs who sell homemade toys on Etsy.com expect the laws to put them out of business, despite selling toys made from natural materials. CPSC has issued one notice that could help; the updated rule “would exempt natural materials from having to be certified as lead-free,” WSJ shares. However, they add, “the Commission needs to implement the rules without putting more companies out of business in an already tenuous economy.”

Despite the current uproar over more fanatical laws, controlling lead and heavy metal pollution remains a significant act worldwide. Last fall, we reported that thousands of American smelters and metals mines plan to reduce emissions throughout 2009, citing a law from the EPA that makes this possible. MetalMiner’s Stuart shared information concerning action against dangerous heavy metal pollutants, too, when he discussed new measures from China.  At an earlier point on MetalMiner, we interviewed a representative from GreenAlloys, who noted the company’s plans to make low-lead fixtures more prominent. But letters across the nation cry out against the newest legislation, and the letter writers enlighten their audience on the reality of the plan: it’s possible the lead law could have more toxic consequences, hurting small businesses and workers more than it help kids.

–Amy Edwards

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