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Protecting kids from lead-tainted toys

Attorney General Ropb McKennaLike most parents, my wife and I were alarmed last year when we heard news reports about the recall of numerous lead-tainted kids’ products. We frantically sorted through our son’s toys while trying to make sense of the onslaught of information about which ones were potentially dangerous.

We had good reason to be concerned.

Lead poisoning can occur without noticeable symptoms, potentially causing learning disabilities and behavioral problems. At high levels of exposure, lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma or in extreme cases, death. Hundreds of millions of products, including toys, have been recalled — so many that we’ve grown accustomed to almost daily news of yet more recalls.

As attorney general, I am fortunate to be in a position to do something about this threat to our families. Through the National Association of Attorneys General, I have partnered with Vermont’s attorney general, Jim Sorrell, to rally AGs representing 49 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, in support of important changes to congressional legislation aimed at making sure our children’s products are safe.

Representatives in Congress are putting the finishing touches on a bill that would impose lower lead concentration limits on all parts of children’s products, require that those products be tested before sale, and increase the power and resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But even with these needed changes, we believe that the federal government will not have the resources to fully enforce new, more rigorous standards for children’s products. That’s why I have been working closely with my colleagues around the country to persuade congressional leaders to allow state attorneys general to enforce these new regulations, providing another essential layer of protection for families in our state.

We have asked for legal language that provides us with additional enforcement powers without invalidating our current consumer protection laws. This is important for our state, where the public has demanded that state government address the menace of tainted toys. In the last legislative session, lawmakers from both parties passed important provisions establishing safety standards for children’s products — but more remains to be done on this important matter.

I am happy to report that we have had a great deal of success. Members of the U.S. House and Senate have both approved bills that we have advocated, and because of our urging, are considering changes guaranteeing that the new law leaves all state consumer product safety protections in place.

While I remain hopeful about the prospect of seeing this bill signed into law in coming days, representatives in the House and Senate have yet to reach agreement on its final form — and they need to hear from you. Please contact Senators Murray and Cantwell, as well as your congressperson, to request that they support the position of America’s attorneys general to change HR 4040 so that it is very clear that the states maintain their full power to enforce toy safety.

With your help, parents in our state and around the country will soon be able to take lead-tainted toys off our list of worries about our kids’ health.

Rob McKenna is Washington state’s attorney general.

Political contacts

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell 

U.S. Senator Patty Murray 

Find your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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