While traveling in Australia this week, I met with a colleague who works the product safety beat for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, (ACCC) the Australian government's official consumer protection and enforcement agency. Gail O'Bryen, Director of Product Safety Compliance, and I have worked together on product safety issues for a number of years. Not surprisingly this year, Australia, like the United States and Europe, has had to grapple with the danger of lead in toys. Australia effectively banned lead in toys so that no toy may have more than .06 parts per million of lead.
Gail also noted that the ACCC expects to set a standard for buggies and strollers after several incidents when these nursery products lead to shocking incidents of injury or death of small children. In several instances, strollers without a braking system rolled away into water or traffic. The ACCC expects to see improved standards for strollers and buggies in the near future.
Finally, the ACCC will likely have a standard for self-extinguishing cigarettes before the end of the year. This is something the United States has adopted in some states, but there has never been a federal standard for fire-safe cigarettes, despite the work of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on the issue. The ACCC works on a vast number of consumer issues, and product safety is only a facet of what this government enforcement agency does for Aussies. Nevertheless, the product and toy safety issue has received the full attention of the Commission.
Learning what colleagues in other countries are doing to address concerns about hazardous products - many of them the same or similar products, like toys, cigarettes, or strollers - has always proved valuable to our work on these and other consumer protection issues.