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New federal restrictions on the presence of lead and other harmful chemicals in children's products take effect on Tuesday (February 10). The new product safety rules are part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed by Congress in response to a number of high-profile recalls of toys in 2007 and 2008.
According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) News Release: "Starting on February 10, 2009, consumer products intended for children 12 and under cannot have more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part," although a one year stay will offer limited compliance relief to certain toy manufacturers and importers. The new federal regulations also limit levels of phthalates, which are used to soften plastic in toys and other children's products. Last week, a federal judge in New York ruled that CPSC may not let toys containing harmful levels of phthalates remain on store shelves after Tuesday, the New York Times reports.
In December 2008, Mattel Inc. announced that it had reached a $12M settlement over one of the largest consumer scares involving lead in children's products -- the 2007 recall of more than 2 million Mattel and Fisher-Price toys due to excessive levels of lead in the surface coating and sub-surface layers of the toys.