Senate Hearing On Lead Contaminated Toys Announced

Carl L Marcellino

November 20, 2007

State Senators Carl L. Marcellino, Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. and Kemp Hannon announced today that they will be conducting an investigative hearing regarding recent toy recalls due to lead and chemical contamination which can cause neurological and behavioral problems, and in some cases, death.

The Senators who chair the Senate committees on Consumer Protection; Health; and Environmental Conservation, will be taking a comprehensive approach in seeking testimony from experts in consumer protection, state and federal regulations, children’s health and safety as well as the environmental impact of improper disposal of contaminated products.

"Long ago we outlawed lead in paint and in gasoline. Now we are finding lead in children’s toys, jewelry and other products. New York has to get serious and take every step to assure that products sold are safe for children, their families and our environment," said Senator Marcellino. "Then we need to ask: how are the recalled toys being disposed of? What measures are being taken to ensure that the millions of lead contaminated items don’t just end up in landfills that are not equipped to handle toxic materials."

The Senators expect expert testimony from consumer protection organizations, the retail and toy industries, manufacturers, health agencies, and importers to learn how the issue is being handled in New York. Is enough notification being made to consumers so they are assured toys being purchased are lead-free? Are retailers being notified and moving quickly enough to clear identified products from their shelves? Is there enough notification being made to alert parents of the symptoms of lead poisoning? And what is being done to assure that that lead contaminated toys are being disposed of properly so they're not winding up in the garbage and eventually into our water supply.

Children across the nation are being affected by high lead levels in products, including the tragic case of a four year old Minnesota child who, unbeknownst to his parents, ingested a piece of a toy bracelet. His parents sought medical attention because of vomiting, but doctors released him recommending increased fluid intake. He returned two days later with uncontrollable vomiting and showed symptoms of dehydration. The boy later died. During an autopsy, the heart-shaped piece of a bracelet was found with tests revealing it contained 99.1% of lead. His cause of death was lead encephalopathy which is swelling of the brain.

In another example of contamination, the recall of a popular toy product called "Aqua Dots" which is made in China, had parents scrambling for answers as to how a powerful chemical compound, gamma hydroxyl butyrate known as GHB or the "date rape drug," could be in a toy for young children causing acute reactions including unconsciousness, respiratory depression and comatose states. 4.2 million Aqua Dot toy kits were taken off the market when a twenty-month old child slipped into a coma after ingesting several dozen Aqua Dots.

More than eighty percent of toys sold in the United States are made in China, sometimes lacking conformity to the U.S. standards of product safety. This past year, millions of items sold to children, including Barbie products and Thomas & Friends railway toys have been recalled by industry manufacturers and retailers. Some consumer advocacy groups are conducting independent testing on toys, fearing that a larger net of protection is needed, especially for the youngest consumers prone to repetitive contact with toys.

The hearing will be held on December 3, 2007 at 11:00 am on the Farmingdale State College campus in The Little Theater at Roosevelt Hall. It will be open to the public; however, oral testimony is by invitation only.