New CPSC chief speaks softly, but carries a big stick - in China


If you're going to make a dent in toy safety, your first stop has to be China. An estimated nine out of 10 toys sold in the U.S. comes from that nation's factories.

For Inez Tenenbaum, who President Obama appointed as the new chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, dealing with toy manufacturing in Asia is a long way from her native South Carolina -- where she spent most of her career as a lawyer, politician and education official. But that's where she is today, in Hong Kong, at the start of a two-week trip that will also take her to Singapore and Vietnam.

It's a chance to define her new role as the top cop for product safety and a full immersion into an arena that has been littered with recalls in recent years for rampant violations of rules limiting how much lead could be in children's products, from huge mainstream sellers like Dora the Explorer bath toys to dollar store trinkets. As much as Tenenbaum is there to learn and to introduce herself, she's also there to firmly convey the message that as of Aug. 14, U.S. laws will have such tight limits on phthalates and lead that there's not much point in manufacturing with them any longer.