Today the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) touted the dramatic success of a law that was passed over 35 years ago. In order to protect children from accidentally ingesting medicines and other dangerous products Congress passed the Poison Prevention Packaging Act in 1970.  It mandated that specific products be packaged in child-resistant packaging.  According to the CPSC, when the law took affect in 1972 the deaths of 216 children under the age of 5 were due to accidental poisoning.  In 2005, the most recent data available, the number had shrunk to 31 deaths, a drop of 86%, even while the population of the US jumped from 209 million to over 300 million.

After a dramatic increase in the number of products recalled in 2007 due to lead paint levels in toys Congress passed similar legislation dealing with lead paint.  The Consumer Product Reform Act of 2007 requires companies that manufacture products designed for children 12 years of age and younger to dramatically cut the amount of lead used in the product’s paint.  Current law allows for lead levels of 600 parts per million.  The new law sets a goal for lead content in children’s toys of 100 parts per million by 2011.

Within four years of passing the Poison Prevention Packaging Act accidental child poisonings fell to 105 by 1976, a drop of 51%.  This fact hopefully foreshadows the results we will see from the passage of the Consumer Product Reform Act.  But passing a law is not the end all be all.

There are plenty of laws regulating products and activities which have not had the success of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.  In the 1970s when the Poison Prevention Act was initially passed most products sold in the US were also manufactured here.  Enforcement of that statute was far easier during the crucial first few years than it would be today when most products sold in the US are manufactured overseas, 80% of children’s toys sold in the US in 2007 were manufactured in China.

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