SAFETY: Activists push for a total ban on lead in toys and more caution with imports. By Lisa Friedman STAFF WRITER WASHINGTON – Health and consumer advocates pressed Congress on Thursday to accept nothing less than a total ban on lead in toys to ensure child safety. Activists urged Congress to implement a comprehensive ban on lead in toys. They also pressed for caution on future trade agreements, arguing that current ones have weakened U.S. ability to enforce regulations. About 86 percent of the $22billion worth of toys sold each year in the U.S. are imported from China. That number soared after the country entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, said Lori Wallach of the watchdog group Public Citizen. Others advocated increased funding and authority for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., said he plans to introduce legislation addressing the tainted-toy scare and overhauling the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Other proposals include legislation by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and New Jersey Rep. Mike Ferguson that would establish an independent certification process for all foreign imports and ban uncertified imports from entering the country. Meanwhile, the nonprofit company behind Sesame Street vowed to send independent auditors to factories and stores to check for lead in all the toys it licenses. “We must be even more vigilant about who we license to produce products that bear our characters,” said Gary Knell, Sesame Workshop’s president and chief executive. “And we must be very clear about the standards they must satisfy.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “There is no reason for lead to be in any product,” Dr. Dana Best of the American Academy of Pediatrics told lawmakers inquiring into the recent spate of lead paint on toys imported from China. Southern California toy giant Mattel Inc. and other companies have recalled millions of plastic Batman figures, Barbie dolls and other children’s playthings since August. Lead in paint is legally limited in the U.S. to 600 parts per million, or 0.06 percent. Some of the toys recalled had nearly 200 times that amount, safety experts said. If ingested, lead paint can cause brain damage and learning disabilities. “There is no acceptable level of lead exposure,” Best testified before the House Energy and Commerce consumer protection subcommittee, which has been holding hearings into how the tainted toys missed detection and how to prevent future problems.