Heading off lead and dangerous toys at U.S. ports

UPDATE: Analysts to CBS The Early Show are calling this a good first step. It's not going to solve the problem of lead paint and dangerous toys, but it's doing something rather than nothing. Upcoming congressional legislation, however, could make sweeping changes.

(CBS) Some 25 million toys were recalled last year due to high lead content and other safety problems.

Now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is hoping to intercept many of those toys and other potentially hazardous goods before they reach store shelves.

Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reports the CPSC will announce it's stationing full-time inspectors at some of the nation's busiest ports, including New York, Houston, Seattle, and Long Beach, Calif.

It is, Koeppen says, "an aggressive move aimed at protecting consumers from dangerous products."

In Long Beach, Koeppen watched as inspectors pulled aside an incoming shipment of brightly-colored toy cars.

Brighter colors tend to have higher lead content, an inspector explained.

The CPSC inspectors will be working side-by-side with Customs agents, looking for banned items.

"The CPSC can now actually stop, examine, and then either release or hold products," points out the agency's top spokesperson, Julie Vallese. "The CPSC is now out there flexing its muscle, doing what it can and trying to stop volatile products before they come into the marketplace."

In addition to toys, Koeppen says, the new inspections will target cigarette lighters, fireworks, and electronics -- many of them coming from China.

Officials acknowledge inspections can only go so far, and what they're finding represents just the tip of the iceberg -- but add it's better than nothing.

"You can't inspect your way to safety," Vallese concedes. "What you can do is build, by utilizing all the different resources at your disposal."

Congress may take consumer safety a step further, Koeppen observes. The Senate is set to vote this week on a bill that would institute sweeping changes, such as a ban on lead in all children's products, and increased funding for the CPSC.

Posted by LS

CBS contributed to this report.