- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland would hire inspectors to monitor toys for lead content under a bill headed for approval in the House of Delegates.

The chamber agreed unanimously yesterday to sign off on a preliminary version of a bill to hire two state inspectors to monitor toy imports for lead problems. More than 25 states are considering toy-safety measures in response to high-profile national recalls of toys found to contain dangerous levels of lead.

“We’re trying to stem the tide of people suffering the effects of lead,” said Delegate James W. Hubbard, Prince George’s Democrat and sponsor of the bill.

If the bill is approved, companies could be fined $10,000 for selling tainted toys. Toys imported to Maryland already must carry certification that they don’t exceed federal lead limits for children, but sponsors of the bill say Maryland needs to do more to keep children safe from lead paint in toys.

States are calling for federal authorities to increase inspections of toys to prevent lead problems. Congress is considering legislation directing the Consumer Product Safety Commission to improve monitoring, but supporters of Maryland’s bill say the state should not wait for federal lawmakers to act.

“It’s a national issue, and the federal government isn’t providing protection,” Mr. Hubbard said. The bill has the backing of the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

The House approved Mr. Hubbard’s bill last year, but the measure failed in the Senate. Mr. Hubbard said his hopes are higher this year because of national publicity of tainted toys. Federal regulators said 61 toys were recalled last year, compared with 40 in 2006.

The Toy Industry Association could not be reached for response to Maryland’s bill, but has raised the issue with other state proposals.

Maryland’s proposal won easy approval in the House after sponsors removed provisions related to lead in jewelry, food wrappers and other products. Sponsors said Maryland inspectors already monitor those items.

The bill was amended to affect only toys aimed at children younger than 6 after concerns were raised about antique toy collections for adults.

“We may be looking at unintended consequences,” said Delegate Richard A. Sossi, an Eastern Shore Republican who used to buy and sell antique toy soldiers, many of them made of lead.

Mr. Sossi later said he was satisfied that the bill wouldn’t affect antiques and planned to vote for the bill. The measure could come back to the House for final passage as soon as tomorrow.

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