In an increasingly global economy, more and more products are being imported to the U.S. from foreign markets. Children's toys are no exception to this rule. In fact, the U.S. imports more than 30,000 tons of foreign-made toys each year, accounting for 95 percent of all toys sold here. According to a report by the American Association of Justice, this flood of imported toys has coincided with a marked increase in the number of child injuries and deaths every year. Unfortunately, they say, the Consumer Product Safety Commission may be ill equipped to handle this influx of dangerous toys.
The report suggests that while the number of toys being imported to the U.S. has increased dramatically, the CPSC is "woefully under-resourced" to cope with the flood of products, many of which feature unforeseen hazards. Toys today can contain dangers ranging from design defects, to asbestos and other undetectable carcinogens, to small magnets that could cause serious internal damage if swallowed.
According to the American Association of Justice, until 2007, the CPSC employed only one person to conduct safety tests on toys. Furthermore, only 15 inspectors were assigned to monitor all of the ports in the U.S. for products coming into the market.
To put this shortcoming into perspective, consider that in a given year, Wal-Mart spends 20 times more than the entire CPSC budget on marketing its toys alone. Considering this fact, it is easy to see how the overwhelmed and under-resourced CPSC is struggling to stop the surge of dangerous products from hitting the market.
A Public Citizen analysis of consumer recalls further illustrates the problem. It found that companies waited an average of 993 days to inform the CPSC of defects. The agency then waited another 209 days before informing the public. As a result of this delay, dangerous products may continue to be sold for years before the public has any idea of their hazards. It is no wonder, then, that recent data reveals a 54 percent increase in toy-related injuries over the last 10 years.
Despite an increase in injuries and death caused by children's toys, there are ways to hold negligent corporations accountable for the harmful products they produce. While the CPSC is limited to asking manufacturers to recall products voluntarily, civil actions by consumers are one way to force corporations and regulators to address defects in children's toys. Parents have the ability to blow the whistle on negligent companies and utilize the civil justice system to protect children and hold manufactures accountable for the harm they have caused.
Source: The American Association of Justice, "Playing with Safety: Dangerous Toys and the Role of America's Civil Justice System", December 1, 2010.
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