Countless toys went untested by federal inspectors during the pandemic

Consumer Product Safety Commission says they’re closer to being back to full force.
University Heights mom, Karen Horn, uses an at home test kit to see if her children's new toys...
University Heights mom, Karen Horn, uses an at home test kit to see if her children's new toys contain lead.(WOIO)
Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 9:55 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that the decision to pull inspectors from ports all over the country for months during the pandemic was unanimous given the deadly threat of the virus.

“CPSC, like everyone, had to deal with the life-threatening threat of COVID-19. Protecting the American public from dangerous consumer products, as well as protecting the health and safety of agency staff, are of paramount importance to CPSC during this unprecedented pandemic,” a statement said.

Once scarce PPE equipment was secured, the agency moved to place inspectors back in to ports, and they are now closer to being back in full force.

University Heights mother of two, Karen Horn, wasn’t surprised to learn of the lapse.

“Everything is getting shuffled to the wayside these days,” she said.

Living in an older home, she is already concerned about lead contamination and worries about other hazardous toys that may’ve gone undetected.

“Anything that could cause a fire is very concerning to me. My kids got a lot of electrical toys this year,” Horn said.

Since you can’t track specific toys to see if they fell through the cracks, the consumer product safety commission offers the following guidance:

 Find out: check information about the seller. Ensure that the toy has not been banned or recalled by checking websites like, or

 Understand: take note of safety warnings, and appropriate age labels.

 Notify: report safety issues to and, when possible, register your toys.

Counterfeit toys are also a big risk when inspections lapse. And knock-offs are tempting.

“With everyone out of work and money is tight everywhere,” Horn said.

It’s something Horn worries about especially with blind bag dolls, like LOLs.

“Am I getting a knock off? Am I getting the real thing?” she asked.

To avoid counterfeits, carefully examine the product, the packaging and the label.

Look for a certification mark from an independent testing organization and the manufacturer’s label.

Check for misspellings and grammatical errors. These can be a sign that a product may be counterfeit.

If the price seems too good to be true, this could also be a sign that the product is a fake.

Be extra vigilant when buying from an unknown seller. It’s best to buy products like bicycle helmets directly from the manufacturer when shopping online, or buy from a big-box store or bicycle shop.

Look at reviews of the seller and the seller’s products.

First Alert offers a home lead test kit to test various surfaces and materials for the presence...
First Alert offers a home lead test kit to test various surfaces and materials for the presence of lead.(woio)

You can also take matters in to your own hands with an at home test kit for lead made by companies like 3M and First Alert.

Horn applied the test swab a Barbie, a Hoverboard, LEGO figure and an American Girl Doll. They all tested negative.

“I am definitely relieved by it. Glad to know manufacturers aren’t skimping and putting lead in paint or any other type of their toy making,” Horn said.

Horn says she’d use the kit again, and will continue to only buy from brands and stores she trusts and she is familiar with.

The CPSC says they implemented workarounds to continue to provide consumer protection in spite of all the displacement of their port staff, including electronic surveillance and a risk assessment targeting system.

Selected samples would be sent to investigators’ homes for further evaluations.

The CPSC statement went on to say that they were as transparent as possible without jeopardizing consumer protection by exposing port strategy to would-be violators.

“There was a unanimous consensus among Commissioners with this plan, followed by frequent briefings and updates with no voiced disapproval. Agency pandemic response was discussed in informal conversations with various Congressional staff. In hindsight, we should have had a more comprehensive communication with Congress,” the statement concluded.

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