Senate Hearing On Toy Recall Announced

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

November 20, 2007

State Senators Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., Kemp Hannon, and Carl L. Marcellino, 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 respectively, will be taking a comprehensive approach in seeking testimony from experts in consumer protections, state and federal regulations, children’s health and safety as well as the environmental impacts of improper disposal of contaminated products.

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., the Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, said, "Nearly every week we hear that an imported toy has been recalled because it could be harmful to a child or worse has already harmed a child here in the United States. This is simply unacceptable. During this holiday season, parents should be able to select toys for their children with the peace of mind that those toys are safe. At this hearing we’ll be taking a look at the precautions already in place to protect children, as well as seeking ways that New York State can strengthen those practices."

Senator Kemp Hannon, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee stated, "The safety of the public and of our children is of the utmost importance to me. When we buy a child a toy, we should expect that it be free of harmful substances such as lead-based paint. Controls must be put in place to protect the public. This hearing will lead us on a pathway to see what New York can do outside of the confines of the federal government to ensure the safety of children from harmful imports."

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; whether enough notification is being given to consumers so they are assured toys being purchased are lead-free; if retailers are being notified and moving quickly enough to clear identified products from their shelves; if there is enough notification being made to alert parents of the symptoms of lead poisoning; and what is being done to assure that lead 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 hydroxy butyrate, known as GHB or the "date rape drug," could be in a toy for young children. The chemical can cause acute reactions, including unconsciousness, respiratory depression and coma. Over four 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 consistency 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 Monday, 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.