US panel delays lead testing law for children's products news
31 January 2009

With a US panel delaying the proposed lead testing requirements for children's toys, small businesses and manufactures in US dealing in children's products have heaved a sigh of relief.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, delayed by a 2-0 vote yesterday, the new law for testing lead content, after 67 businesses predicted that costs and confusion about the tests would drive many businesses to bankruptcies.

The commission described the dealying of the rule that was to take effect from 10 February, a limited "time-out" to enable the panel and Congress address the issues with the law.

''The stay will give the CPSC time to develop and issue rules defining responsibilities of manufacturers, importers, retailers, and testing labs,'' the agency said in a statement.

The issue of dangerous lead content  had come to a head in 2007 with several recalls of imported Chinese toys, over concerns of the hazards they posed. 

While previous regulations imposed limits on lead content, the new law toughened the standard and increased penalties to as much as $15 million. It also widened the reach to cover children 12 years old and younger.

However, the new law brought under its scope products such as bicycles and books that are not strictly toys. Also,  the agency' s lawyers declared that all products on store shelves would have to follow the new rules, not just those made after the 10 February guideline. 

While large manufacturers and retailers such as Mattel and Wal-Mart Stores Inc said they would meet the new requirements, smaller retailers and toymakers said that Congress or the product safety commission should scale the law back before 10 February.

Some small-business owners are so alarmed that they plan to file a federal lasuit to have the law declared unconstitutional.

They also point out that the law is so overboard and so vague that it will make criminals of thousands of ordinary, hard-working citizes. Besides, it would also cost the economy a billion dollars at a time it can least afford.

The National Association of Manufacturers and other industry associations, wrote to the agency this week, expressing fears that the law might cause ''massive economic dislocation" with the potential for widespread bankruptcies. 

In a press release, the commission said the enforcement delay ''provides some temporary, limited relief to the crafters, children's garment manufacturers and toy makers who had been subject to the testing and certification. These businesses will not need to issue certificates based on testing of their products until additional decisions are issued by the commission.''

Meanwhile consumer groups are pressing for the new protections that they say are overdue and should not be delayed.

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US panel delays lead testing law for children's products