Mr. President, first, again, I commend Senator Harkin, Senator Chambliss and our entire Agriculture Committee for the work we're doing on this farm bill. I'm excited it's moving ahead. I am hopeful we will get some more reform in the bill, including my amendment to make sure that the hard-working farmers in this country are at the receiving end of the help from the farm bill opposed to multi-millionaires from across the country. I look forward to debating that in the next few days.
Mr. President, I'm here to talk about another topic and that is that across Minnesota and across the country families are making their annual trips to stores and malls for their holiday presents. Kids are making their wish lists -- I know my daughter has her own -- and parents are combing the ads for the best prices. But this year, parents are thinking about something a little more than the price. A little more than the wish list. They are also wondering if the toys they are buying are safe.
In fact, Mr. President, just this weekend, I visited Moorhead, Minnesota in 20 below zero and a number of parents turned out as well as people who worked in the area to talk of their concerns about safe toys. They say they are just shocked in this day and age we have the toxic toys on our shores, in our stores and we just have to put an end to it. This year, almost 29 million toys and pieces of children's jewelry have been recalled. They were found to be dangerous and in some cases, deadly, for children.
In many cases, the reason for the recalls have been truly horrible. Who would believe a popular toy for children could be swallowed by these children. That normally would not be a disaster, but the toy morphed into a date rape drug and put the child into a coma. That is what happened in this country. Another nine million toys have been recalled for containing toxic levels of lead. The lead levels can lead to developmental delay, brain damage and death if swallowed.
As a mom and as a former prosecutor and now as a U.S. Senator I find it totally unacceptable the toys are in our country. As my 12-year-old daughter said when her favorite Barbies were recalled, “Mom, this is really getting serious.” It is clear the system we have in place to ensure the safety of products for our most vulnerable consumers, our children, is broken. It needs to be fixed now.
The Senate Commerce Committee on which I serve has taken strong action to stem the tide of the recalls. The Consumer Products Safety Commission Reform Act of 2007 which was passed by the Commerce Committee under the leadership of Chairman Inouye and Chairman Pryor and Senator Bill Nelson and Senator Durbin represents some of the most sweeping reforms in 15 years for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take the lead out of children's products, establish real third-party verification, simplify the recall process and make it illegal to sell a recalled product. It also gives the long forgotten agency the resources that it needs to protect our children.
The recent action by the Commerce Committee sends to the senate floor an opportunity to reform our consumer protection laws and effectively ban lead from kids' products. I'm hopeful we will act quickly and work out details that need to be worked out and when we adjourn for the holidays, this reform will be passed. To me, the focus is simple: we need to make sure there is a clear mandatory standard. Not just voluntary, not just a guideline, but with the force of law. It is shocking for most parents when they realize that there has never been a mandatory ban on lead in children's products. Instead, we have a voluntary guideline that involves a bunch of red tape that makes it hard to enforce and as millions of toys are being pulled from the store shelves for fear of lead contamination, it is time to make crystal clear lead has no place in toys.
In Minnesota a four-year-old got a pair of shoes in our state. And with the shoes came a little charm and the boy swallowed the charm. He did not die from choking or from some kind of blockage of his airways. No, he died as the lead in the charm, the lead that should never have been in the charm went into his bloodstream over days and when they tested the charm it was 99% lead. It came from China. And this little boy died. What is most tragic about this death is it could have been prevented. He should never have been given the toy. It should not take a child's deaths to alert us we need to do something about this in this country.
The legislation that I originally introduced to address this problem is included in our bill. There's a lead standard in the bill that effectively bans lead allowing for trace levels for jewelry and allowing for trace levels for toys. For 30 years, we have been aware of the dangers posed to children by lead. The science is clear. It's undisputed that lead poisons kids. And it shouldn't have been taken this long to figure that out. We know it and now we can do something about it.
As we all know, the Consumer Products Safety Commission's last authorization expired in 1992 and the statutes have not been updated since 1990. During that time, since 1990, we have had billions of dollars of toys coming in from china and other countries that have essentially been unregulated because of a lack of resources for that agency. It is a shadow of its former self, Mr. President. It is half the size that it used to be in the 1980's and we have billions of dollars of unregulated toys coming into this country and there has been no response, no request if a big increase -- nothing. Meanwhile, the toys are coming on to our shores.
The inspection effort for toys at the Consumer Products Safety Commission is led by a man named "Bob." He is in an office that is messy in the back of the CPSC and retiring at the end of this year. We need to get more toy inspectors in the field. We need to give this agency the tools it needs to do its job. The legislation sitting before the Senate today goes a long way in modernizing the commission. The legislation more than doubles the CPSC budget by the year 2015 -- something we wish they had asked for itself but we went ahead and did it ourselves. The CPSC Reform Act makes it actually illegal to sell a recalled toy the. Finally we are taking action against the bad actors who are knowingly leaving recalled products on their shelves.
At this moment I thank the retailers who have worked with us on the bill: Toys ‘R Us, the C.E.O of Toys R Us testified. We worked with Target, a Minnesota company. They want to get some legislation passed and they want to actually increase the budget of this agency so there can be more inspections. This bill will also -- this was a piece of the bill I worked on -- make it easier for parents to identify toys when they are recalled. I have to tell you most parents when they get their toys, and they open them up on Christmas morning, they do not keep the package. My mother-in-law keeps the package but most other people don't. They have this packaging and you have the toy. What we say in the bill is that the badge number should be on the toy if practical. You can do it on the foot of a Barbie or Sponge Bob Square Pants. We know there are more recalls to come and we want the parent be able to figure out which toy to throw out and which toy they can keep in their toy box. This is a good, practical reform everyone agreed to.
The other piece of this is that the batch number should be on the packaging because unlike big retailers where it is easy to pull the recalled toys from the shelves and zero them out on the computer system, some people buy toys on e-bay, at garage sales, and that's why we think it's very important the toy numbers be on the actual packaging as well as the toy. We've seen too many headlines this year to sit around and think this problem is going do solve itself.
As a senator, I feel strongly that it's important to take this step to protect the safety of our children. When I think of that little four-year-old boy's parents back in Minnesota and you think of the other children who have been hurt by the toys -- the one that went into a coma over the date rape drug -- these are just little kids. We can do better in this country. We can put the rules in place and make it easier for them to do their job. We can't just sit and bemoan the results. We have to act. We have the opportunity. We must pass this bill before we go home for recess. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.