Officials Delay New Toy-Testing Standards

By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted yesterday to delay enforcement of certain provisions in a landmark product safety law passed after the wave of tainted toy recalls in 2007.

Children's product makers still have to meet tough new limits on total lead content and phthalates, a chemical used in plastic that has been linked to reproductive problems. But the agency said it is delaying by one year a requirement that companies test their products to verify that they are complying.

The National Association of Manufacturers and more than 50 other business groups asked the CPSC to delay the effective date of the new standards until August to give the agency more time to provide guidance. The CPSC is in the process of sorting out the testing and certification requirements and determining which components or materials, such as untreated wood or inaccessible parts, may be exempt. However, it won't be done by Feb. 10, when the new standards take effect.

"We must be mindful of the chaos and confusion that this new law has created in the marketplace," acting chair Nancy Nord said yesterday in a written statement. "The action we are taking today puts in place a limited 'time-out' so that the Commission and the Congress can address the issues with the law that have become so painfully apparent."

While consumer groups were sympathetic to the plight of business owners, "to give a 12-month blanket extension to everybody does not seem consistent with the intent of the law," said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families.

Business groups were also critical of the commission's action yesterday because major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are requiring suppliers to test their products and provide proof that they meet the new lead and phthalate limits, thereby rendering the CPSC moratorium moot for many.

"They granted no relief," said Rosario Palmieri, a spokesman for NAM.

"The idea is to give everyone a little breathing room to get this done right," said Joseph Martyak, a CPSC spokesman.

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