As the Christmas shopping season kicks into high gear, the heads of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Customs appeared on the Today Show
and at a New Jersey warehouse for a press briefing on Thursday to draw attention to ways the public can help the government combat the import of unsafe toys and other children's products.
In addition to warning parents to be vigilant about buying age-appropriate toys without parts that can suffocate or choke a child, the CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Customs Deputy Commissioner (acting commissioner) David Aguilar said their joint surveillance efforts have stopped thousands of unsafe products from reaching store shelves.
In the past four years, CPSC and Customs and Border Protection have seized more than 8.5 million units of about 2,400 different toys and children's products due to safety hazards or violations of federal safety standards, including more than 2 million units so far this year, according to a joint news release. The seizure rate is double what it was in 2008, when news about harm caused by unsafe products from China and other countries was widespread, leading to tougher legislation and law enforcement efforts.
Since its opening in 2010, the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center in Washington has targeted more than 5,000 high-risk shipments for examination, leading to the seizure of thousands of dangerous imported consumer products. The CTAC is operated by CBP and is home to specialists from several agencies, including CPSC, who coordinate analysis of inbound shipping data and compliance exams of imports that pose a potential safety hazard.
In November, the CTAC identified a large shipment of toys arriving in the Jacksonville, Fla., area that contained lead. CBP and CPSC inspectors seized nearly 24,000 toys valued at $220,000.
The CPSC recalled 38 toys in fiscal year 2012, most for small parts, choking hazards, or sharp points. The recall levels are down substantially from 172 in fiscal year 2008, in part because of CPSC efforts to help foreign and domestic toy manufacturers and retailers understand U.S. safety requirements. - Eric Kulisch