Lead poisoning is a silent, but serious threat to the health and well-being of children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 22 American children has elevated levels of lead in their bloodstreams. Left untreated, lead poisoning may result in brain injury, behavior problems and stunted growth.
To reduce the number of lead poisoning cases, the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission has decided to lower the limit of lead allowed in toys and other children’s products. Beginning August 14, 2011, the limit was reduced by two thirds, from 300 parts per million to 100 parts per million of lead.
Questioning the decision, some retailers and manufacturers of children’s goods have called for proof indicating that the lower limit is safer. Though the Commission has been unable to quantify the benefits of the reduction, it stands by its decision. In a statement about the decision, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said, “consumers can rest assured that lead should be virtually nonexistent in toys and other children’s products.”
The Commission’s recent decision resulted from years of study and safety advocacy. Having overseen several recalls of dangerous or defective products for children due to high lead content, the Commission began developing legislation to protect consumers. A result of the Commission’s efforts was the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which included the prompting to reduce lead levels by August 2011.
A petition process is in place for companies to request a waiver for their products. The Safety Commission will review petitions to determine if it is “technologically feasible” for the companies to comply with the new limit. If not, the Commission could choose to grant a waiver.