Maryland Considers Hiring Own Lead Inspector for Toys

February 29, 2008

Maryland would hire inspectors to monitor toys for lead content under a bill headed for approval in the House of Delegates.

The chamber agreed unanimously this week to agree to a preliminary version of a bill to hire two state inspectors to monitor toys coming into Maryland for lead problems. The bill comes as more than 25 states consider tainted toy measures after high-profile national recalls of toys found to contain dangerous levels of lead.

“We’re trying to stem the tide of people suffering the effects of lead,” said Delegate James Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, sponsor of the bill.

If approved, the bill would fine companies $10,000 for selling tainted toys. Already, toys imported to Maryland must carry certification they don’t exceed federal lead limits for children, but sponsors of the bill say Maryland needs to do more to keep kids safe from lead paint in toys.

The move comes as states call for federal authorities to beef up inspections of toys to prevent lead problems. Congress is considering legislation directing the Consumer Product Safety Commission to improve toy monitoring, but supporters of Maryland’s bill say the state needs to act without waiting for Congress to act.

“It’s a national issue, and the federal government isn’t providing protection,” Hubbard said.

The bill has the backing of the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

“We really to ensure that we are not basically allowing children to play with toxic toys,” said the group’s executive director, Ruth Ann Norton.

The House approved Hubbard’s bill last year, but the measure failed in the Senate. Hubbard said his hopes are higher this year because of national publicity of tainted toys. Federal regulators say there were 61 toy recalls last year, compared with 40 in 2006.

The Toy Industry Association did not have an opinion on Maryland’s proposed bill, but the association raised issue with the dozens of different state proposals related to lead in toys.

“We believe that any necessary government regulation is best carried out at the federal level,” spokesman Frank Clarke said in an e-mail.

Maryland’s proposal won easy approval in the House after sponsors tweaked the measure to take out portions related to lead in jewelry, food wrappers and other products _ sponsors say those items are already monitored by Maryland inspectors.

Also, the bill would affect only toys aimed at children under 6 after complaints it could make illegal antique toys collected by adults.

“We may be looking at unintended consequences,” said Delegate Richard Sossi, a Republican from the Eastern Shore who used to buy and sell antique toy soldiers, many of them made of lead.

Sossi later said he was satisfied the bill wouldn’t affect antiques and planned to vote for the bill. The measure could come back to the House for final passage as soon as Friday.


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