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Injuries from the use of consumer products are common, frequently serious and sometimes fatal. There are more than 18,000 annual emergency room visits for children as a result of product-related injuries. Given the complexity and interconnectedness of today’s global marketplace, there appears to be a discrepancy between product safety assumptions and consumer expectations. Survey results have shown that the vast majority of Canadians assume that if a product is available for sale on the market, it has been adequately tested for safety. In Canada, this is not necessarily the case, particularly for children’s products, because premarket testing is often flawed or not legally required. Under the current Hazardous Products Act, there are a variety of consumer products, including many children’s toys, that do not adhere to proper standards or regulations. The result is an increased risk of product-related injuries to children and youth because of their age, cognitive abilities and developmental stage.
The realities of the global marketplace are placing an increasing importance on national governments to ensure the health and safety of consumer products available for sale in their respective countries. The global market for toys is valued at US$67 billion, with approximately 80% of toys in Western markets originating from China. In Canada, consumer product safety legislation was originally drafted in the 1950s and 1960s when consumer product safety was less complex. In today’s globalized economy, many products available for sale are imported and products manufactured in one country contain materials from around the world. International trade is commonplace, and counterfeit and black market products continue to compromise consumer product safety.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Bill was signed into law in August 2008. The Improvement Act includes more stringent safety standards for children’s toys and all-terrain vehicles, mandatory testing and certification of children’s products by accredited third-party bodies, increased enforcement measures and greater oversight of imported goods. The European Union also has more stringent product safety laws through the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, which includes broad safety regulations in addition to increased enforcement measures. There is a need in Canada to renew and modernize federal product safety legislation to better reflect the globalized marketplace, to be consistent with societal and consumer expectations, and to ensure that Canada does not become a haven for unsafe products rejected by the American and European markets.
This year during Safe Kids Week, an annual public awareness and education campaign, Safe Kids Canada embarked on an advocacy campaign to encourage the federal government to pass the proposed product safety legislation – which was introduced in 2007. Currently, Bill C-6, an Act respecting the safety of consumer products, is being debated in the Senate at second reading. To help protect Canadian consumers and children by renewing and modernizing Canada’s consumer product safety legislation, we are encouraging all Canadian citizens to write to the federal Minister of Health, as well as their Senator, to show their support so that this Bill can be passed in autumn when the Senate resumes.
Please go to www.safekidscanada.ca and click on Public Policy and Advocacy for more information.