Suffolk County tackles toxic toy legislation

Suffolk County tackles toxic toy legislation

An x-ray device is used at a press conference to show how inspectors will monitor potentially harmful toxins in children’s products across Long Island retail stores. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Suffolk County is not playing games when it comes to toxic toys.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) saw one of her latest proposals receive unanimous approval last week when the Suffolk County Legislature approved measures that would ban the sale of any toys containing potentially dangerous toxins. The Toxin Free Toys Act zeroes in on six toxins most commonly found in toys marketed to children and will forever ban them once the legislation gets County Executive Steve Bellone’s signature.

Hahn said the initiative came as a response to a recent report issued by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Clean and Healthy New York that found several children’s products containing carcinogenic components on the shelves of Long Island stores. Most specifically, the legislation targeted dangerous materials that are linked to cancer, cognitive impairments, hyperactivity and genetic disorders in children, Hahn said.

“As a mother, I am outraged that children’s toys contain these toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders,” Hahn said. “By passing this law today, we are acting proactively to protect our children’s health.”

Under the proposal, new children’s products sold in Suffolk County would need to contain less than specified limits in parts per million of the six following components: antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury. The legislation pegged the county’s Department of Health Services to head up the operation by notifying retailers by the beginning of 2016 that inspectors would be conducting random checks for toys and other children’s products containing toxic content using an x-ray fluorescence analyzer.

Clean and Healthy New York released the “Toxic Toys on Long Island” report back in December, which surveyed various retail spots like Target, Party City, Walmart, The Children’s Place, Macy’s, Ocean State Job Lot and Dollar Tree to find that some products contained potentially harmful materials. The report found more than 4,600 children’s products and toys contained at least one of 49 hazardous chemicals.

Kathleen A. Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York, was one of several health and safety advocates to applaud the proposal as an appropriate response to December’s report.

“In the absence of a strong state or federal law to regulate toxic chemicals in children’s products, it is both laudable and appropriate for Suffolk County to take action to protect its most precious and vulnerable residents,” she said. “Hopefully, this action will create a tipping point for New York State to follow suit. Otherwise, more localities will step up and follow Suffolk’s lead.”

Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, has also been at the forefront of the statewide push to limit the kinds of toxins children could be exposed to through their toys. While the state still waits for its own comprehensive response to toxic toy legislation, Bystryn applauded Suffolk for taking the lead.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, and they should not be on store shelves for sale,” Bystryn said. “I applaud bill sponsor Kara Hahn and the Suffolk County Legislature for sending a clear message to parents that they deserve the right to know what dangers are lurking in the products they bring home.”

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