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Toothless in Washington: CPSC Stalls While Children Die from Dangerous Toys

A two-part series that ran today and Saturday in the Chicago Tribune tells of the outrageous neglect of child safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and toy makers. 

Super-powerful magnets hidden in Magnetix and other toys fall out of the plastic pieces and have almost irresistible attraction for young children, who swallow them. The magnets attract each other as they move through the intestines, ripping bullet-like holes in the intestinal wall and admitting deadly bacteria. The toy defects have led to more than two dozen life-threatening injuries and at least one death. Kenny Sweet, Jr., a Seattle toddler, was killed by nine magnets in his intestines.

Despite the efforts of parents and caregivers to repeatedly call the issue to the attention of federal regulators who could initiate a recall, the CPSC at first ignored the seriousness of the complaints. When it did finally act, its authority to take decisive steps was muddled by Reagan-era laws that badly weaken the agency, handcuffing its ability to require a recall.

It also appears that the toy makers were aware of the complaints about the severe injuries from the magnets, yet the recall notices they finally sent following negotiations with the CPSC were weak and confusingly worded. The Tribune’s investigation found that many of the recalled versions remain on toy store shelves even today.

The article is a wake-up call to Congress to fix CPSC’s authority so that it can mandate recalls of hazardous products.  It also makes it painfully clear that confirmation of Bush’s nominee, manufacturing association lobbyist Michael Baroody, would be nothing short of a cataclysm for the safety of American families.