How port officials keep consumers safe from unsafe imported toys
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Did you know the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers work together every day to ensure imported toys are safe?
Michelle Marsh took us behind the scenes to see the so-called "toy police" in action this busy holiday season.
Near the Port of Baltimore is what's called a centralized examination station, where you'll find CPSC Compliance Investigator Matthew Barra and and Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer Nico Twardy .
The two work side-by-side, testing imported toys to make sure they meet federal safety standards.
"The first thing I want to see is the age grade for this," Barra observed of one toy.
"Looking to see if anything possibly inside the toys itself, that could be prohibited," said Twardy of her work.
The majority of what they do at the Port of Baltimore is children's products.
"I'm looking at overall quality of the toy. Any parts going to come off, or wires going to stick out of it," Barra observed.
The agencies often target cargo from new importers or previous violators, bringing it from the port to a warehouse. There they open boxes at random and physically examine the toys, checking metal composition using an x-ray frequency analyzer.
"We've come back with a reading for lead 7,443 ppm. Allowable limits are 100 ppm," Barra said of a fidget spinner. "It's a very high reading for children's products."
The CBP destroyed those fidget spinners.
Officers also look for intellectual property rights violations.
"If we see something that looks counterfeit or of shoddy material per se, we might refer to CPSC to take a further look at it," Twardy said.
"Over the past four years we've seized over 10 million units comprised of about 4,600 different types of toys."
Seized items are destroyed, detained or released under certain conditions.
Barra says most toy safety violations he's found are for high levels of lead.
And while toy safety is always important, near Christmas, when more toys arrive at U.S. ports, this partnership to protect american consumers is especially critical.
The CBP reports that toys made the top 10 list of types of commodities seized at U.S. ports last year, with a total MSRP value of more than $12 million.