Barack Obama says that if he's elected President, he'll double the funding for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and make sure it has the inspectors it needs to ensure that the goods sold to American consumers are safe.
At a news conference in Waterloo, Iowa, Obama said existing safety laws "aren't being enforced and many Americans, including many children, are paying the price. This has to stop."
Meanwhile in Washington, the CPSC said toys were associated with at least 22 deaths in 2006 while 165,200 children were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries, up from 155,400 in 2005.
The CPSC is planning a special study to try to identify the reason for the increase in injuries, spokeswoman Julie Vallese said.
The latest statistics illustrate that, while lead paint and tiny magnets have gotten a lot of attention this year, many injuries are still being caused by such simple and traditional toys as balloons, tricycles, scooters and balls.
As in previous years, riding toys, especially non-motorized scooters, accounted for most of the toy-related deaths and injuries in 206.
Three children riding scooters died when they were hit by cars whiel three others died while riding powered riding toys.
In one case, a three-year-old boy rode his battery-powered scooter into a swimming pool. A six-year-old died when the cape of a costume he was wearing became tangled in the axle of his gas-powered ATV. In two separate cases, small children rode their tricycles into swimming pools and drowned.
Three children died when they choked on plastic nails or pegs from toy tool sets. Three other children died when they choked on small rubber balls.
In 2005, Sen. Obama (D-IL) introduced the Lead-Free Toys Act, which would require the CPSC to ban children's products containing more than a trace amount of lead.
Obama said he has also directly pressured toy manufacturers and Bush administration officials to do a better job protecting American children from the threat of imported toys, especially those manufactured in China.
"I've challenged the Bush administration and the toy companies to do a better job of protecting our children from unsafe toys, especially those made in China," Obama said. "And I introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell a toy that has more than trace amounts of lead - and that's a bill I'll sign into law when I'm President."
Speaking at West High School in Waterloo, Obama presented outlined his proposals to improve product safety:
The U.S. needs to have inspectors on site in China, as Japanese officials do for food safety inspections.
Obama said he would drastically increase fines for toy companies not abiding by the rules.
Expand the CPSC's regulatory powers and establish mandatory inspections to ensure imported toy safety.
Work directly with China and the World Trade Organization on the issue.
Obama noted that since the U.S. government normalized trade relations with China, Chinese consumer products have flooded the U.S. market. Unfortunately, U.S. officials who negotiated the normalization failed to include strong safety and health standards for products entering the U.S. despite warnings that China had a weak safety and health screening process, he said.