Assembly Panel OKs Toy Safety Bills

Stiff fines for selling recalled items

The Record ( — Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Toy stores in New Jersey would be required to remove any recalled products or face fines of up to $20,000 under legislation approved by a state Assembly committee Monday.

One of the measures before the Assembly's Consumer Affairs Committee, called the 'Toy Safety Act," establishes fines of $10,000 for a first offense and $20,000 for subsequent offenses for stores that are caught selling recalled products.

A second bill sets a 48-hour deadline for stores to remove products once they have been recalled.

The third piece of legislation is a symbolic resolution that urges Congress to pass tighter controls over toy sales.

All three measures were touted by lawmakers as a strong response to recent incidents involving dangerous toys, such as last month's discovery in a Chinese-made children's toy of a chemical similar to that found in the "date rape" drug. The chemical, if ingested, can cause unconsciousness and coma.

"It has become disturbingly apparent that many of the toys for sale on store shelves are not fit for use by anyone, especially children," said Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden, the sponsor of the Toy Safety Act and chairwoman of the committee. "We simply must do more to protect consumers from unwittingly purchasing hazardous products marketed and designed for use by children."

Last month, the state's Division of Consumer Affairs checked toy stores in New Jersey for recalled products. The agency found nine stores still selling recalled toys. No recall notices had been posted.

"Consumers need to do more to protect themselves by making educated purchases this holiday season and we, as legislators, need to do more to protect consumers by ensuring the products on New Jersey shelves are safe," said Assemblyman Neil Cohen, D-Union, another bill sponsor.

The state lawmakers said they are also frustrated with staff and budget cuts at the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission that may be handicapping the agency's ability to handle the global scale of the toy-safety problem. It is believed about 80 percent of the toys sold in the U.S. come from China.

"The federal government needs to do more to help protect the most vulnerable members of our society," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, the sponsor of the resolution.

Jim Walsh, a member of New Jersey Citizen Action, testified before the committee Monday about lead poisoning from toys. More than 20 million toys containing lead-based paints have been recalled.

"What we're doing right now is scratching the surface of what needs to happen," Walsh said. "Some children 1 may suffer severe learning disabilities because of lead."

All three bills passed the committee by a 3-0 margin with two abstentions. the measures now head to the full Assembly for consideration.

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