Most of us can easily point out a toy or other product geared to kids. Yet, a recent New York Times story highlighted growing controversy around the definition of a “children’s product.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission Act of 2008 gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority to define a “children’s product” and expanded its ability to regulate these products. Included in the regulations are more safety testing, more recordkeeping and a reduction in the amount of lead allowed in children’s products – a big victory for kids. But now manufacturers are scrambling to avoid having their products labeled as “children’s products” for fear of having to actually make their products safe! The New York Times story highlights a few of these cases. For instance, the Halloween Industry Association is arguing that “thematic” costumes might not meet the definition of children’s products because teens and adults like to play dress up too. Model train makers are also arguing that their trains shouldn’t be included because their target audience is not a child but middle-aged men. As Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety at the Consumer Federation of America argues, the point of the law is to protect children and the commission should err on the side of children instead of manufacturers. Granted, some products may be difficult to categorize but there are likely far fewer of those than industry would have us believe.

Sadly, manufacturers have been effective at getting the commission to delay defining a “children’s product.” In fact, it has postponed a vote three times. The commission has also softened its stance; the most recent draft of the children’s product definition exempted model train makers and a few others.

The commission finally voted last Wednesday, and, despite our concerns, the vote was in favor of keeping Congress’ original and broader definition of a “children’s product”. This is good news for our children’s safety, as the original definition covers all products that are intended for a child 12 years of age or younger. We are both relieved and pleased with the commission’s decision to protect the welfare of our nation’s children.

Read the New York Times article.