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CPSC enforces new lead standards

A new law is imposing stricter rules on retailers and manufacturers who may be distributing products that contain lead.

In an effort to reduce lead content, a new component of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) now limits children's products to 600 parts per million (ppm) or 0.06 percent lead.

In 2008, Congress passed the (CPSIA) in response to the wave of recalled toys over the past two years. Last month, the new lead standards were passed.

There wasn't any regulation before Congress passed the act in 2008, said Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Arlene Flecha.

The law put some limitation on lead content in consumer products. It enforced limited lead levels in just the surface coating paint on toys and other children's products.

But now with the new component of the law, the CPSC announced that an entire product - the coating paint plus materials used to make the product - should contain no more than 600 ppm.

"Manufacturers and importers are now required to test and certify products to show these new standards," Flecha said.

Additionally, retailers and resellers must make sure their products are safe, including their existing inventory.

Wal-Mart stores began removing suspected products in January 2008 as a way to prepare for the law passed this year, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa Obrien.

"We did this beforehand knowing that the purchases for our orders to arrive in the summer and fall needed to comply with government standards," she said.

She added that sometimes when high levels of lead are discovered in an existing product, it must be removed immediately before it's recalled.

"It has been necessary to shift and in some cases remove inventory from our distribution centers, our stores and our shelves through this entire process on a case by case basis," Obrien said.

According to the National Center for Environmental Health, children are particularly susceptible to lead's toxic effects.

In 2006, a Minneapolis 4-year-old boy died from lead-induced brain swelling after swallowing a piece of metallic jewelry containing high levels of lead.

The child's death prompted federal and state health officials to issue new warnings about the dangers of children's jewelry and toys that contain lead, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

As investigators discovered better study designs, the level of lead toxicity has shifted downward and will continue to decline.

In August, these limits will drop to 300 ppm or 0.03 percent and will be reduced again in 2011 to the lowest level that is technologically feasible, according to the CPSC.

Lead poisoning, for the most part, is silent with no symptoms. Therefore, the vast majority of cases go undiagnosed and untreated, the National Center for Environmental Health reports.

"The intent of the law is to insure, products that are intended for children are safe," Flecha said.