Many retailers confused as new toy rules take effect

NEW YORK — Toy stores across the country scrambled Monday to abide by tough new lead and chemical standards for toys that go into effect on Tuesday.

Many toy sellers pulled questionable items off their shelves after a judge last week nixed a delay that would have given them a 12-month reprieve. The abrupt change and the lack of guidelines has left many retailers bewildered.

At The Toy Store in Atlanta, owner Denis Hofstetter was pulling about 5 percent of his inventory off the shelf on Monday just because he isn't certain whether or not the toys conform to the regulations.

"It's a great law that's being implemented terribly," said Hofstetter, 34.

Last summer, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which imposed tough standards for lead and certain chemicals, called phthalates, in products for children age 12 and under.

The standards were set to go into effect on Tuesday, but on Jan. 30 the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a one-year stay of enforcement for some testing and certification requirements for manufacturers and importers of regulated products. The decision gives the CPSC more time to finalize four proposed rules that could exclude some materials and products from testing and issue more guidance on how testing is to be conducted.

However, retailers are still not allowed to sell the products, causing some uncertainty.

Katherine McHenry, 36, owner of Building Blocks Toy Store in Chicago, said she has contacted all of her vendors and feels confident that her selection of specialty toys meets the requirements. But she still feels unsure whether she knows enough about the regulations, and she plans to attend a safety seminar at the Toy Industry Association's annual Toy Fair on Monday.

"I'm very happy to know that there's going to be some type of standardized way for parents to feel like there's a lot more involvement," she said.