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Product regulator seeks more muscle

September 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Leaders of the agency responsible for protecting consumers from faulty products said Wednesday that Congress should increase its budget and power after huge recalls of lead-contaminated toys.

Testimony from Consumer Product Safety Commission officials came as Mattel Inc., maker of 1.5 million of the 13.2 million toys recalled in the last month, said its tests found lead in paint in recalled toys nearly 200 times higher than the maximum acceptable level -- 110,000 parts per million versus 600.

Chief Executive Robert A. Eckert told lawmakers that a reading of 10,000 parts per million was typical in Mattel's tests of the tainted toys.

He apologized for the recalls, saying they "should never have happened, especially at Mattel. Our standards were ignored and our rules were broken."

One of the agency's commissioners, Thomas H. Moore, said "we are all to blame" for a system that allowed children to be exposed to lead-tainted toys.

"Our small agency has been ignored by the Congress and the public for way too long," acting Chairwoman Nancy A. Nord said. "Our laboratory desperately needs to be modernized."

The agency was founded in 1973 with a staff of about 800. It now employs about half that number. Moore said that of the agency's total field investigative staff of fewer than 90, it has about 15 people to visit ports of entry to inspect the more than 15,000 product types under its jurisdiction.

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