The Checkout

Why Feb. 10, 2009 is the New Christmas

Annys Shin

Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's general counsel Cheryl Falvey released a legal opinion on whether the new lead limit, passed as part of the massive product safety reform bill, applies to products that were made and shipped before the law took effect on Aug. 14.

Before you fall asleep on me, this is not boring legalese. It means that after Feb.10, 2009, all products on store shelves must comply with a strict new lead limit of 600 parts per million. The limit applies to total lead content and not just lead paint.

The Feb. 10 date was imposed by Congress. And it means the new limit doesn't go into effect until after the holiday shopping season.

Until then, manufacturers will be able to sell their existing inventory that may not meet the new requirements, including exporting them to other countries. The new law also prohibits the export of banned goods but that provision doesn't kick in until --- there's that date again -- Feb. 10, 2009.

Consumer groups were generally happy with the legal opinion as being the most protective of consumers. Lawyers for businesses were less thrilled.

Everyone is waiting to see how strictly the CPSC chooses to enforce its new guidance. And we'll have to wait to see how consumers handle this bit of news on Black Friday. If last year was any indication, people will keep buying toys, regardless of recalls.

I suspect retailers will figure out some way to convey to consumers even before that date that their products meet tough safety standards.

While it is only September and the full-on holiday marketing barrage has not yet begun, if anyone spots advertising or signs that make safety claims for children's products, let me know! Even better, take a picture.

Chairman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) issued this statement this afternoon on the opinion:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U. S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, issued the following statement in response to news reports, today, that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued its first legal opinion outlining its interpretation of when businesses must meet a key, lead standard provision of the recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008:
"Consumers should be assured that the new law allows no free-for-all on leaded toys before tougher standards take effect in February, 2009, leading to the toughest standards in the world. The standards under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act on the "accessibility" of lead in children's products are still in effect. These standards make it unlawful for retailers, manufacturers and importers to deal in toys with unsafe levels of lead. I expect the CPSC to continue to recall hazardous products and get this dangerous stuff off the market, just as it did before. In February, when the tougher standards mandated by CPSIA take effect, consumers and the CPSC will have the benefit of clearer, more precise, and more easily enforced standards on the amount of lead that is unlawful in children's products.
"Moreover, there are anti-stockpiling provisions in the consumer product safety laws that are intended to prevent industry players from gaming the system when new regulations or laws are pending."

By Annys Shin |  September 15, 2008; 1:28 PM ET Annys Shin
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