The chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission had no sooner said yesterday that this year's batch of Christmas toys poses no major new safety risks than one of the commission's members blasted the agency for not looking hard enough into the area of toy safety.
Commissioner Stuart Statler said the CPSC doesn't know about new risks because it has not been vigorously monitoring the toy industry and noted the number of toy-related accidents in 1984 is up over the previous year.
Stressing previous warnings that balloons, toy chests and certain crib toys continue to pose a serious hazard to children, Chairman Terrence Scanlon said, "There is no number one major threat this year. I am not aware of any compelling problems at this time."
Scanlon credited the scarcity of problems to the recall of 78 hazardous children's products during fiscal 1985, 10 more than the previous year.
But Statler said budget cutbacks have meant that the commission is not up to date on information about hazardous toys.
Scanlon, a Democrat, is "speaking the truth in terms of what he's not aware of," said Statler, a Republican whose term on the commission ends in 1986. "He would be more aware if we had more resources and more monitoring."
Meanwhile, Ann Brown, head of the consumer affairs committee of Americans for Democratic Action, said her committee has identified a number of hazardous toys and products that have gone unchecked and will name them next week.
Brown said the group will seek CPSC action on the items, currently in stores, that the group's toy experts found were dangerous during a year-long study it conducts annually.
At the kickoff of its annual toy safety campaign in the atrium of the Department of Agriculture, commission and toy industry officials said vigorous enforcement and voluntary standards helped reduce the number of toy-related injuries to 126,000 last year, down from 147,000 in 1977.
In 1983, however, there were 118,000 incidents, according to Statler. "It troubles me that somebody is trying to minimize what appears to be an increase."
The CPSC yesterday stressed the importance of selecting toys suitable for the child's age, supervising children playing with toys, storing toys out of the reach of children for whom they are not intended and keeping toys in good repair.
But its emphasis on parental awareness sparked criticism from some who said the group is leaving too much of the responsibility with parents and is not moving aggressively enough to remove unsafe toys from the market.
Brown called for more mandatory standards and criticized the CPSC for relying on recalls to assure safety. "It's mostly based on when there's a death," Brown said of the recalls, calling for "more anticipation" of problems.
Brown also challenged the voluntary warning labels in place of mandatory redesign of some products, such as balloons, that account for the most toy-related deaths among young children who choke on uninflated ones or pieces of broken balloons. "All they do is keep warning parents. Did you ever try to warn a group of kids at a birthday party?"
Amendments to the Consumer Product Safety Act four years ago limited the adoption of mandatory safety standards until voluntary standards have been tried.
CPSC's Scanlon called more mandatory standards "a foolish thing" because voluntary ones can be adopted much more quickly, assuring safety precautions sooner.