NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 15, 2009

Products intended for use by children may not contain lead amounts greater than 100 parts per million (ppm) starting in 2011.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has ordered manufacturers, distributors and retailers to reduce the lead content of children's products from the current standard of 600 ppm. 

According to H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow, and Michael Hand, a research assistant, both with the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • The new regulations were required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was passed hastily in response to 2007 recalls of toys imported from China.
  • The law was intended to protect children (12 years old and younger) from lead poisoning, however, it targets products that pose a miniscule risk to children.
  • It threatens to shutter small businesses, thrift retailers (including some large charities) and public libraries, and it limits the availability of consumer goods for children.
  • Unless the law is modified, it is estimated that more than $1 billion of inventory will be destroyed, hurting producers, sellers, workers, consumers and the children the law was intended to protect.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), about 310,000 children are diagnosed with lead poisoning annually.  The symptoms include impaired hearing, stunted growth and diminished intelligence.  Over the 2000 to 2007 period, according to a Northwestern University study, most lead poisoning was due to ingestion of lead from the environment -- contaminated soil or peeling house paint.  Other significant sources of lead included dust, lead water pipes and soldered pipe fittings. 

The study found:

  • About 85 percent of lead poisoning cases in children can be traced to deteriorating lead-based paint.
  • Just 1.8 percent of lead poisoning cases are due to nonenvironmental causes, including toys, jewelry, candy, folk medicines and spices.

The new law does nothing to reduce the amount of lead in the environment, but encompasses products that pose no special risks to children, say Burnett and Hand.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett and Michael Hand, "Getting the Lead Out Kills Small Businesses, Doesn't Save Children," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 665, July 15, 2009.

For text:


Browse more articles on Government Issues