Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Good News on the horizon?

Copied from Bloomberg.com: U.S.

Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to exempt electronic goods and products with lead embedded inside from new rules banning the metal in toys.
The two-member commission, reacting to complaints from manufacturers, also agreed to exempt natural products such as gems and cotton from mandatory testing for lead. The proposal, given initial approval today, will be open for public comment for a month and may be altered.

Companies had urged the safety commission to pass more far- reaching exemptions and to put them in place immediately, before the ban on lead in toys takes effect Feb. 10.

“The deadline is coming up very, very quickly,” said Sheila Millar, a lawyer representing the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association. Companies “want clarity and they need it quickly,” she said.
Still, companies shouldn’t expect a crackdown, said Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the commission.
“There’s a need for compliance, but it’s fair to say that the toy police will not be descending on all of America on Feb. 11,” Vallese said.

First Overhaul
Congress passed the first overhaul of consumer protection laws in almost two decades last year in response to a spate of recalls the year before of Chinese-made toys containing lead. While previous regulations included limits on lead, the law toughened the standard and expanded its reach to all products aimed at children 12 and under.

That expansion has ensnared makers of products such as bicycles and books that never thought of themselves as toymakers, said Ed Krenik, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington.
The law also forces all makers of children’s products to get independent tests of their toys to prove they don’t contain lead.

Lobbyists representing makers of products such as books, handheld computers, bedding and shoes banded together to petition the commission to exempt them from the new lead standards. They say the independent commission should also remove glass, bolts, mattress padding and other components of products that present no risks to children.

The proposed exemptions considered today are “incomplete and provide no process for adding additional materials which are known to science to not contain lead,” a coalition of handmade- toy sellers wrote to the CPSC on Jan. 3.

The CPSC exempted wool, cotton, silk, gemstones and pearls in its proposal today.
The panel also faces pressure from consumer groups to keep the standards tight. The only lead in toys the commission ruled was “inaccessible” was that which children couldn’t touch, a standard Millar argued is too tight.

“The agency is aware that this one-size-fits-all law doesn’t necessarily fit all sectors,” Vallese said. “But the laws are set and Congress was very explicit.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

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