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Toxic Toys Found at Houston Port

By Nasima Hossain
Public Health Advocate

An article published in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, January 23rd, revealed that 25,000 children’s toys have been confiscated at the Port of Houston in the past two years, because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found them to be unsafe. This alarmingly high number indicates that children’s toys are among the most highly confiscated dangerous products imported to the United States, second only to fireworks. The toys were confiscated, because safety inspectors found these toys contained small parts children could easily choke on, as well as harmful and potentially deadly toxins such as lead and phthalates. Lead is a well known powerful neurotoxin that can cause permanent brain damage and death as well as IQ deficits, ADHD, and deficits in vocabulary, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Young children are particularly susceptible to these harmful effects, because they are constantly putting their hands and toys in their mouths. But even keeping objects and hands away from your child's mouth will not protect them from lead poisoning, as it forms into a dust that seeps out of toy paint and children cannot avoid inhaling it. Phthalates are believed to cause early onset of puberty in girls, genital defects, and lower sperm counts for boys.

In 2010, 17 children died and 181,5000 were injured due to use of toys. Eleven of the seventeen deaths occurred when children choked or asphyxiated on small toy parts, such as a stuffed bear’s eyes or nose. These deaths could potentially have been prevented by more safety inspections at ports and parents being made aware of unsafe products on the new consumer website www.SaferProducts.gov and through U.S. PIRG’s Trouble in Toyland report. The gains we have made through the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) are under threat thanks to the current pending acts (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, Regulatory Flexibility Improvement Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act). These acts are dangerous and would rollback or block the current public health and consumer protections that we enjoy.

 Clearly, the toys that are coming into the U.S. pose a great risk to children and must be prevented from reaching store shelves. In order to keep our children safe from choking hazards and toxin poisoning, we need the stricter product safety regulations that were incorporated into the 2008 CPSIA act. All our hard work in making toys safer for children will be undone if Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, Regulatory Accountability Act, and Regulatory Flexibility Improvement Acts are passed.  Rollbacks to public health and consumer protections must not be allowed.   

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