In 2007, more than one in seven Halloween and holiday products purchased in Ohio - and tested by Ashland University Professor Jeff Weidenhamer - contained unacceptable levels of lead contamination.
Four years later, Dr. Weidenhamer joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Monday to reveal that thanks in part to Brown-sponsored legislation passed in 2008 and new strong regulations implemented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), NO Halloween toys or items purchased in Ohio contained dangerous levels of lead.
"A more aggressive Consumer Product Safety Commission and stronger safety standards can mean the difference between a happy Halloween and a dangerous one. Just four years ago, Dr. Weidenhamer and I found dangerous levels of lead paint in widely-available Halloween items," Brown said. "Thanks to a new law, and tough safety standards for children's toys, parents can be confident that toys and costumes are indeed safer for our children. These results should serve as a wake-up call to those in the House of Representatives looking to slash resources for the Consumer Product Safety Commission."
"Unlike the testing undertaken in 2007-2008, I have not found any problems this year with the painted Halloween items. It would appear that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has had a positive impact on this aspect of product safety," Dr. Weidenhamer said. "I am pleased to see that some measurable improvements in product safety have been made."
In 2007, Brown requested that Dr. Weidenhamer test Halloween and holiday items purchased in Ohio for levels of lead. Approximately one in every seven items was found to contain high lead levels. According to guidelines set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at the time, acceptable levels of lead were 600 parts per million (ppm), or 99.97 percent lead-free. Items like a witch candy bucket tested at 88,900 ppm; a treat basket with pumpkin ornament tested at 87,800 ppm, and fake "ugly" teeth tested at 65,200 ppm. All were recalled. In recent years, tainted imports from China and other countries have led to the recall of hundreds of thousands of toys, tires, food products, and pet food products.
This year, following the implementation of strong consumer product standards, Brown requested that Dr. Weidenhamer conduct a second round of testing. Dr. Weidenhamer tested a total of 75 Halloween items purchased in Ohio from eleven different retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, RiteAid, Drug Mart, Claire's, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Party Place, and Spirit Halloween. 71 of the 75 products were made in China, while the remaining items were made in the United States. The items included candy buckets, drinking cups, costume components, and toys. Items were screened using an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which can detect contamination with lead other heavy metals. No lead levels of concern were detected in these products.
The progress follows major reform, passed in 2008, of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), cosponsored by Brown, set acceptable levels of lead at 600 parts per million (ppm) within 180 days of enactment, 300 ppm within 180 days of enactment, and 100 ppm within three years of enactment, unless the 100 ppm level was found to be "not technologically feasible." Following Brown's call for action and amidst numerous reports of tainted items, the CPSC voted in July 2011 to ensure that toys for children 12 and under meet the 100 ppm level, or are at least 99.99 percent lead-free.
At the news conference, Brown and Weidenhamer outlined how stronger consumer product standards as well as the work of the CPSC have made Halloween toys and masks safer for children. A proposal moving through the U.S. House of Representatives would slash funding for the CPSC. A 2012 budget proposal passed by the Appropriations Committee in the House allocated $111.28 million for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, $3.5 million less than the CPSC's 2011 budget and $3.2 million less than what the Senate's same committee passed.
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