Esme Murphy, Reporting
With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Amy Klobuchar were stepping up pressure Monday on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure toys on store shelves are safe.
They're proposing legislation that would streamline the recall process and help parents understand which toys have been recalled.
Lawmakers want the agency to check children's products made in China for lead contamination. If lead is found, Durbin wants the agency to detain the products and inspect other shipments from the manufacturer.
"We need to restore the confidence of American parents in the toys that are in this country, and that means making sure these unsafe toys never get on our shores and aren't in our stores," said Klobuchar, a Democrat.
Millions of Chinese-made toys recently have been recalled because of lead-paint contamination or because they contained small magnets harmful to children who ingest them.
Recent recalls have included some of the nations most popular toys starting with Thomas the Tank Engine, some Barbie products, Polly Pockets and Dora the Explorer toys. The recalls have hit just about every toy buying household in the nation.
China has sought to defend its exports and show its working to address safety issues.
"You use the Web as much as you can to find out which toys have been recalled to find out which toys have been recalled but you are never sure every toy in your house is not on recall right now," said one Minneapolis parent, who sent back her three year olds Thomas the Tank Engine toy.
Adding to parents confusion is that some of these recalled toys is that some of them were actually manufactured a number of years ago.
Klobuchar's legislation would improve labeling to make it easier for parents to figure out if toys had been recalled.
"The idea is not only to put it on the packaging what parent keeps the packaging but put it on the bottom of the toy with the batch number and the date so that when there is a recall you can quickly check the child's toy to see if it is one of the toys that has been recalled," said Klobuchar.
She said she has bi-partisan support for her proposal and is also getting backing from major toy retailers like Target and Wal-Mart.
Durbin said the product-safety commission has questioned whether it has the legislative authority to conduct the analysis that he and others want.
Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said there is no pre-market government testing of products, and her agency deals with problem products through recalls.
She said she would not respond to Durbin's request through the media but the agency would respond to him quickly and thoroughly.
Others in Congress also are focusing on the toy-safety issue, including fellow Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate. Obama has introduced a bill that would require the commission to classify children's products with lead as banned hazardous substances.
Lead poisoning can cause learning and behavioral problems in children.