By Jerome Paulson

Starting on February 10th, companies won’t be able to sell children’s products that contain more than 600 parts per million total lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently clarified the requirements under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and put to rest the fear that thrift stores and consignment stores would have to go through lead certification processes for all of the many products they sell. But some consumers and businesses are still concerned that the costs of third-party lead testing will be too high for small toymakers, and have started a petition to the CPSC.

I believe this effort is misguided, because our first responsibility has to be to protect children. No amount of lead is safe. Manufactures have the moral, as well as legal, responsibility to put toys and other children’s products on the market that are not harmful.

Concerns about not being able to buy hand-crafted, artisan wood toys or to market children’s books are a bit over blown. CPSC has been excruciatingly slow to get information out about how it plans to implement the new law. I expect that there will be mechanisms to resolve the many concerns raised.

Now is not the time to have Congress re-open this legislation and try to craft exceptions to it. Think of the mischief that could occur.  Little loopholes have an annoying propensity to become major loopholes. Can anyone think of a single safety initiative of the last 50 years that was not predicted to ruin the industry at which it was directed? Think about seat belts and air bags. They were impractical, too expensive and people would disable them or not use them. Both were going to be the ruination of the auto industry. While the auto industry is in tatters, it is certainly not because of seat belts and airbags.

As occupational and environmental health professionals we expect all size organizations to meet reasonable health and safety laws and regulations. The two-person construction company still has to reinforce its trench walls to prevent cave ins. The restaurant that has one venue has to meet the same health and safety regulations as the biggest chain. 

I would encourage people not to get on the bandwagon of trying to change the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Wait  until the new administration has time to reform the CPSC so that it can implement the law in the reasonable fashion that a professional regulatory organization should be able to do.

Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician and co-director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (MACCHE). He is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health and in the Department of Prevention & Community Health at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at GW’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences.