Saving lives and reducing injuries

Nearly four years ago, members of both chambers of Congress came together and made a significant investment in the health and safety of our nation’s children. Today, thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), the United States can proudly claim to be a global leader in children’s product safety.

At the Consumer Product Safety Commission, we have been working hard to implement this sweeping reform law, and the results of our work deserve repeating:

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Our nation now has the strongest crib safety standards in the world, along with mandatory standards for play yards, toddler beds, baby bath seats and baby walkers.

Our nation has some of the most stringent lead limits for children’s products in the world. The result has been an 80 percent decline in recalls of toys due to lead violations since 2008. The importance of reducing children’s exposure to lead was emphasized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a Senate hearing just last week, where Dr. Christopher Portier affirmed that “no safe blood lead level for children has been identified.”

In 2009, CPSC turned the voluntary standards for children’s toys into mandatory standards, which regulators in other nations acknowledge is one of the most comprehensive toy safety requirements in the world. 

Stringent limits have been established to keep six types of phthalates out of toys and childcare articles, and limits have been established to keep cadmium, arsenic and other toxic metals out of toys and children’s jewelry.   

Independent, third-party testing of children’s products is taking place around the globe, in China, Italy, Indonesia and the United States. Independent testing of children’s products is the capstone of CPSC’s implementation of the CPSIA, and it is one of the most important safeguards sought by parents and consumers.

Because of all of these accomplishments, I can say with confidence that the state of children’s product safety is strong — and it is built to last for generations to come.

CPSC is the strongest it has been in decades, and we are using our strength to create a sustainable product safety system; a system built to last through compliance with the safety and testing requirements established by the CPSIA; a system built to last by creating a regulatory approach that strives for injury prevention rather than reaction.

The success we have achieved at CPSC deserves to be shared with the children we have been striving to protect; with the members of Congress and child-safety advocates who crafted the CPSIA; with makers and sellers of children’s products, who are working to comply with the law and keep their customers safe; and with parents and grandparents, who let their voices be heard and can now have more confidence in the safety of the marketplace.

Our efforts at CPSC to be proactive in advancing the safety of children’s products have not been limited to implementing the CPSIA. We have moved forward with new and exciting initiatives that are aimed at addressing a variety of emerging hazards. 

We have joined Safe Kids Worldwide and the medical community to warn adults never to allow young children or teenagers to play with small, powerful “rare earth magnets,” which are often used in magnetic desk toys. A growing number of children have ingested these powerful magnets, which connect in the small intestines and require emergency surgery to prevent a potentially fatal infection. 

We have joined with consumer advocates and the Window Covering Safety Council to urge families with young children to use cordless window blinds in order to prevent the deadly strangulation risk that exposed cords can pose.

We have joined with the NFL, NFL Players Association, USA Football, CDC and other football organizations to launch a new initiative aimed at creating a culture change in youth football by promoting safer play and safer helmets and reducing traumatic brain injuries.  

In the coming months, staff at CPSC will be focusing on programs aimed at keeping children safe from television and furniture tip-over incidents, ingestion of coin cell/button batteries that can cause life-threatening injuries, baby monitor cord strangulations and all-terrain vehicle incidents.

Our safety agenda at CPSC is never-ending, because every year there are new parents who need to be educated and new children who need to be protected. So long as I am chairwoman, CPSC will continue to move forward, do what is in the best interest of our nation’s children and uphold our mission to save lives and reduce injuries. 

Tenenbaum is chairwoman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.