Posted by: Carl Magruder | December 9, 2008

Just Say No to Toxic Toys

As you might have guessed from my previous post, the well being of children is a concern that is near and dear to my heart.  It is this concern that prompts me to turn your attention to a failure to protect these vulnerable members of our society that threatens their health in the interest of profits.  For a change, I’ll be brief. 

The season of Advent is one of anticipation, but also one of accountability. Last Christmas NCC Eco-Justice Programs urged you to lift up your voices to protect children’s health from harmful levels of lead in children’s toys. Exposure to lead is linked to developmental delays and even death. Thanks to your faithful and gracious support, this summer the federal government passed and signed a bill that will set a lead limit of 100 parts per million and ban or suspend the use of plastic softeners called phthalates (pronounced “THA-lates”) in toys and other products designed for children under twelve.  Phthalates have been linked to birth defects, early childhood puberty in girls, the de-masculinization of boys and cancer.  They have already been banned in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, and the state of California.


The U.S. law does not go into effect until February 10th of 2009, leaving children, the most vulnerable members of our society, unprotected against unregulated levels of phthalates in toys through the Christmas season. To add insult to injury, the chief legal counsel of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with implementing and enforcing the ban, has interpreted the law to mean that while manufacturing must stop, existing stocks of the toxic toys can still be sold. This will make it difficult to know what is safe on store shelves potentially for months or years to come.


To protect the “little children” of whom Jesus says, “…it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  (Matt. 19:14), we invite you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper holding the CPSC accountable. Click here to send a letter, for talking points, and a sample letter.


Letters to the editor are a great way for you to influence policy makers and the CPSC about what people of faith think about this issue. Send a message now.



  1. Has anyone actually read this legislation? It will rid the US of handmade toys and pretty much all american made children’s products. It does require very expensive testing for each and every version of every batch of children’s product (not just toys, this includes clothing, blankets, etc.) or cannot be sold. It also requires this testing by the retailers for existing inventory, so consignment shops, and even garage sales will now be void of all children’s products or the persons will be committing a felony. The only manufacturers that will be able to survive this will be the large Chinese ones. Is this really what you want? If we were talking about items that had a high likelihood of harm I’d be for it, but we are talking about grandpa’s wooden carved trains (whether painted of not) and T-shirts made by stay at home moms.

  2. Hi Sam,

    I can understand your concern and frustration about the burden that testing could have on small manufacturers. Just to be clear, we are just talking about toys that have lead and phthalates in them- not handmade wooden toys or painted t-shirts.

    I hope we all agree though that we want to make sure that toys are safe for all of God’s children. I do hope that the CPSC will find a way to address the concerns of small businesses while protecting children’s health. There is a lot that still needs to be clarified in the bill’s implementation.

    one way we can address this problem is by making sure that the chemicals that manufacturers are using is safe- thus putting the burden on the chemical manufacturers to ensure that toy manufacturers are working with the safest ingredients in the first place. This means working for comprehensive chemicals policy reform.

  3. Hi Chloe,

    I sincerely love most of what I see about this organization throughout this website and mean no disrespect, I believe your intentions are noble. But if you are asking for people to write letters to congress to push the CPSIA regulations forward, you need to be honest with yourself about what you are asking for.

    I realize your intent is to remove dangerous toys from children, one I and I think everyone wholehartedly supports. But that doesn’t mean you should blindly support poor legislation. If you are supporting the passage of the CPSIA legislation, you are, by definition (read the CPSC’s own opinions on their website), talking about handmade wooden toys and t-shirts. The handmade wooden toy cannot be legally sold without proving that it is lead-free by testing so often (every batch), so involved (every design), and so expensive that only a large manufacturer could comply without going bankrupt.

    You say “To add insult to injury, the chief legal counsel of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with implementing and enforcing the ban, has interpreted the law to mean that while manufacturing must stop, existing stocks of the toxic toys can still be sold.” But what is being delayed here is this requirement for testing and certification by retailers of ALL of their already existing child product inventory. This ruling does not allow for known toys dangerously high in lead to be returned to the shelves, and no one would ever suggest such a thing. Without this extension by CPSC, every handmade wooden train and T-shirt and every other product already in inventory in every mom and pop children’s store in the country becomes “hazardous material” just because it hasn’t been through expensive testing and makes it a felony for them to sell them. So on Feb. 10, all these stores would be throwing out most of their inventory unless they come from large manufacturers (mostly from China) who can afford to back test and certify. This is why crafts makers, small American manufacturers, and mom and pop children stores in America refer to Feb. 10 as “National Bankruptcy Day”, because, though part of the legislation has been delayed past Feb. 10, most still has not.

    If you do not believe this is where this is heading, look at today’s latest story. The spokeswoman from the CSPC says that if you sell one of a kind of an article, like at a consignment store, like most of Goodwill’s items (but not all), this may be exempt, but more than one, you are not. If that’s how the CPSC is addressing the concerns of small businesses, then, other than consignment stores, they are on borrowed time.

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