2008-05-16 / Columnists

Keep Dangerous Toys Off The Shelf

Governor David Paterson

Governor David Paterson has announced the submission of legislation to keep dangerous toys and other products out of children's hands. The "Children's Product Safety and Recall Effectiveness Act of 2008" will protect New York children from unsafe toys and durable juvenile products (such as cribs, car seats, high chairs, playpens and other similar items) that may be available to consumers even after they have been recalled.

"Most parents will be shocked to learn that dangerous toys and other children's products are readily available for sale in stores even after they have been recalled," said Governor Paterson. "This legislation addresses this problem, by prohibiting manufacturers, distributors and retailers from continuing to sell recalled children's products in New York. We cannot be complacent about protecting our children, especially when it comes to toys and products people count on and use every day. New Yorkers should be able to have confidence in the products they buy for their children, and we are determined to build that confidence, starting with this new law."

During the summer of 2007, the Consumer Protection Board (CPB), along with other state agencies, conducted toy recall sweeps to investigate compliance with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls. The inspectors visited and contacted approximately 2,800 retail establishments and thrift shops throughout New York, and identified roughly 400 stores that carried one or more of the recalled items.

While most retailers stated that they received some form of recall notice and took the proper measures to remove the recalled items from their store and return them to the manufacturer, some reported that they did not receive notice or direction from their supplier or from the manufacturer. Additionally, although most retail stores posted signs to inform consumers of the recall, the postings were not conspicuous or uniform from store to store, making it difficult for consumers to be aware of important safety recall information.

Consumer Protection Board Chairperson and Executive Director Mindy A. Bockstein said, "I commend Governor Paterson for introducing important measures to protect our youngest New Yorkers through this Act. Last year, the CPB identified hundreds of recalled toy items still on store shelves in our statewide store sweeps. In addition, we found toys with labels that had inadequate or no product information to assist us in locating the manufacturer or distributor to help with removal of products that, after testing, revealed dangerous lead paint levels. Through this legislation, shoppers in our State will be better protected, they will have more information about the products they purchase, and the CPB will have the authority to enforce improvements in marketplace."

Once a product has been recalled, it is often very difficult for the manufacturer and the seller to notify all of the consumers who have purchased the item. Often, recalled items are never returned. They remain in homes, attics, and on the shelves of discount and secondhand stores where they continue to pose a danger to unsuspecting users. This is especially true for products designed for infants and young children, where an item may be purchased and then handed down to several successive users in the same family or sold to another family at a garage sale. Moreover, because many New Yorkers buy used toys, nursery products, cribs, playpens and other similar products at secondhand or thrift stores, recalled items are unwittingly purchased at these locations.

Currently, there is no prohibition against the sale or distribution of children's products or durable juvenile products that have been the subject of a recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nor is there an effective system for notifying individuals of such recalls. There is also no requirement for labeling of children's products or durable juvenile products that contain lead, magnets or potentially hazardous liquids.

This bill seeks to address these problems in several ways. In particular, the bill:

Requires that manufacturers of "durable juvenile products" (which as defined include cribs, car seats, high chairs, playpens and other similar durable products for children under five years old) must include a "product safety owner card" with the product at the time of original purchase by consumers;

Requires manufacturers and importers of children's products and durable juvenile products to notify consumers, distributors, retailers, the State Attorney General and the CPB of any recalls or warnings;

Provides that commercial dealers (i.e., manufacturers, importers, distributors and wholesalers), after receiving notice of a recall or warning, must: (1) remove the recalled product from their shelves and websites; (2) contact the initial purchaser of the product if possible; and (3) post recall notices and warnings in a conspicuous manner;

Requires appropriate children's products and durable juvenile products to have labels indicating the manufacturer's and importer's name and contact information, as well as lot/batch information if applicable, either on the product or on its packaging;

Requires disclosure of lead paint, magnets and liquids in children's products and durable juvenile products; and

Authorizes the CPB and the Attorney General to enforce these requirements.

Taken together, these provisions will reduce the likelihood of New York children getting hurt by recalled and defective toys and other products by having an enforceable law that prevents these products from being on store shelves, providing information about recalls, safety warnings, and the presence of lead paint, magnets and liquids in children's products and limiting the source of potential harm.

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