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State’s children win with new laws regulating toxic lead in kids’ toys

Michigan Environmental Council and key allies help attain passage
The Michigan Environmental Council and its allies from the public health community scored an important victory in late 2007 with the passage of state laws protecting children from lead poisoning.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed four bipartisan bills limiting lead in children’s products and ensuring that efforts to reduce lead exposure continue. The new Michigan standards protect children from lead in products, including toys, child care articles, lunchboxes and children’s jewelry. The rules fill a void in federal laws, which currently apply only to lead in paint.

This new protection came amid concern over recalls of children’s toys because of very high lead levels, and just weeks after the release by the Ecology Center of www.HealthyToys.org, the first consumer action guide to toxic chemicals in toys (see related article on the page 19).

Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin that can permanently damage the brains, internal organs and nervous systems of children. Michigan has the 6th highest rate of childhood lead poisoning in the nation.

Three of the bills (SB 174, HB 4132 and 4399) outlaw the sale or manufacture of toys and child care articles, jewelry or lunchboxes that contain lead at levels above 600 parts per million (ppm). HB 4936 reconstitutes the Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission and requires the Commission to assess the 600 ppm standard in the other bills to determine if it is sufficiently protective for Michigan’s children.

MEC was among Michigan environmental and health groups that worked for months to help shepherd the legislation to the governor’s desk.

Supporters of the bills praised the legislature and governor for their hard work on these bills. In particular, Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw); Rep. Ed Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms); Rep. Andy Coulouris (D-Saginaw) and Rep. Lisa Wojno (D-Warren) provided valuable leadership. The bills were shepherded though key committees chaired by Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo) and Rep. Kathy Angerer (D-Dundee).

The state action is necessary because of the virtual lack of any federal regulation to protect children from toxics. According to an article in the New York Times, the Consumer Product Safety Commission only has one full-time person to test all toys that are imported into the U.S.

While these bills are an important step in better protecting children, there is more that needs to be done. Research shows that lead poses a hazard to child development at levels much lower than the current standard. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended children’s products should contain no more 40 ppm of lead. Other health experts say that a truly protective limit must be lower than the 600 ppm, which is the standard used for recalls by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) for lead in paint.

MEC and its partners look forward to working with the Lead Commission, the legislature, and the governor to continue strengthening our protections for children.
-Molly Polverento, Michigan Environmental Council
RELATED TOPICS: environmental toxins
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