Safer Toys Will Come, but Parents Can Act Now

A new consumer product act will safeguard kids, but it won't kick in immediately.


Good news for parents—last Thursday President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the biggest effort in the past 30 years to protect children from dangerous toys and products.

This comes after a horrendous 2007, when millions of children's toys were recalled for containing toxic amounts of lead, potentially lethal magnets, and other hazards.

Here's what the new law does:

  • Bans lead from toys and children's products.
  • Requires manufacturers to have toys and other products independently tested for safety before they're sold.
  • Bans from plastic toys the chemicals known as phthalates, which are suspected of disrupting the body's hormone system, particularly in boys.
  • Creates an online database where parents can report dangerous children's products and learn about recalls.
  • But these improvements don't happen immediately. Instead, they'll be phased in over the next few years, and it's critical that we parents are hip to that when we head out to the mall. Grandma and grandpa, too.

    The toys in the stores this Christmas season won't have to meet the law's new safety provisions. That means another season of "parents beware!" Check here for a list of five things parents can to do protect their children now.

    Here's the lowdown on when the new law's key protections kick in:

    • Four months out. Manufacturers of cribs and other baby gear must have their products safety-tested by accredited labs.
      • Six months out. Six common phthalates are banned from plastic children's products. Lead in children products must be below 600 parts per million.
        • Two years out. A new consumer-friendly database on recalls, which lets parents post information about dangerous toys and products, should be online.
        • "At least parents should know that Congress has done a lot to protect their children," says Rachel Weintraub, a lobbyist for the Consumer Federation of America, and mother of a 2-year-old. "There will be real changes that will impact the safety of products. As a mom, and as someone who has dedicated months of my life to this, that is really heartening."

          Parents still have to be vigilant, Weintraub says, on hazards like choking that are caused by how children use toys and other products. "But our hope is that by putting so much safety at the front end, recalls won't be our only solution."