Unfortunately, under the Bush administration, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission staff has been cut more than 10 percent in recent years. This leaves fewer regulators available to monitor the growing flood of imported toys from China.
9 million toys recalled
There have been several reports of serious injuries to children who swallowed magnets from the toys. According to the Commission, "all three suffered intestinal perforations that required surgery."
As a result, Mattel has issued a recall affecting more than 9 million toys, citing magnets that could be swallowed and possible problems with lead paint.
Its Fisher-Price division recalled 1.5 million preschool toys from a different supplier earlier this month.
Safety agency under-funded
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission "doesn't have the staff that they need to try to get ahead of this problem," according to Janell Mayo Duncan, senior counsel at the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. "They need more money and resources to do more checks."
The Commission is a government agency designed to "protect the public from risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under [its] jurisdiction", including appliances and children's toys. It was created in 1972 by Congress under the Consumer Product Safety Act, to protect the public "against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products."
Unfortunately, the current presidential administration has been whittling away at the Commission's funding, leaving it with scarce resources to monitor the millions of imports entering the US market.
Made in China
More than 80 percent of toys on U.S. store shelves are manufactured in China. Last year, China exported $7 billion worth of toys to more than 160 countries.
Representatives in China have defended the industry's safety record there. "Although there are a few problems with some made-in-China toys, generally the safety quality is worthy of being trusted," the official Xinhua news agency stated in a recent release, citing unnamed officials from two industry associations.
Critics are unconvinced, however, charging that American companies have shipped their manufacturing operations to China in order to cut costs, at the expense of safety standards.
Julie Vallese, a Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman said "Is there a concern that there are more products coming in from China and making sure they live up to the standards we expect? Yes, there is."
The New York Times reports that "China was source of all toys recalled this year."
Recall lists online
Concerned parents can find comprehensive recall information online at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC].
READ MORE LEGAL NEWSProduct recall and warning information is also available at [PARENTS MAGAZINE].
Advocate: US companies "should be held liable"
Across the country, lawsuits are being filed on behalf of parents against Mattel and other toy companies, to compensate families and to ensure that companies take steps to prevent more accidents.
"These are items that children are supposed to be playing with," said Prescott Carlson, co-founder of a Web site called the Imperfect Parent, which includes a section that tracks recalls of toys and other baby products.
"It should be at a point where companies in the United States that are importing these items are held liable."