County lawmakers to consider “toxic toy” ban

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NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature is poised to consider a new law limiting the sales of toys containing known toxic compounds in the latest local effort to supplement a larger state drive against hazards posed by the products.

A public hearing was set for legislative consideration of a local law which would prohibit the sale of children’s products and apparel which contain substances such as benzene, mercury, lead, arsenic, cobalt, cadmium, and antimony, all of which have been linked to serious physical or neurological damage in children.

The legislation would require a warning to be imposed on first-time offenders. If they do not comply, vendors will face a $500 fine for first-time violations and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Sports protective equipment, charitable donations and used toys sold secondhand and items sold over the internet would not be included under the law.

Recent independent investigations into toy safety recently turned up a troubling number of toxic inclusions in mass-produced products. During the 2014 holiday season, Albany-based nonprofit Clean and Healthy New York released a report listing a number of toys-many of which were marketed with popular cartoon characters-which include the chemicals.

According to County Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe, one matter of particular concern is the commonality of the toxic components, many of which are constructed overseas and beyond the reach of industry regulators. The products are often shipped to the U.S. and sold at major retailers, particularly 99 cent stores.

“We’re not just talking about off-brand retailers,” Wolfe said. “This is something that exists.”

In response, local lawmakers have enacted laws banning the use of hazardous chemicals in toys. Albany County passed a similar bill restricting the ban on toxic toys while Suffolk and Westchester County have followed suit with proposals modeled on the Albany bill.

State efforts could universalize the current smattering of local restrictions. The New York Child Safe Products Act, which largely imposes restrictions on heavy metals, was introduced by the Independent Democratic Conference in 2014. Though it passed the New York State Assembly, it failed to reach the Senate by the end of the year.

Since then, the bill has been re-submitted and approved by the Assembly as part of a raft of environmental and safety regulations introduced for Earth Day. Its companion bill in the Senate is currently sitting in the Environmental Conservation Committee.

Though lauded by business and parent groups, the push for regulation has also gathered a strong reaction from the Safe To Play Coalition, a toy retailer interest group which argues the restrictions would create a confusing contradiction between state and federal law while banning virtually all toys in the state. The Coalition has filed suit against Albany County to block its local law and has been intensely lobbying the Senate to curb broader statewide restrictions.

Nonetheless, the bill does have a significant chance of passage. If it progresses beyond committee, the proposal is expected to gather enough votes for Senate approval and receive a final signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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