Toys lacked federal safety screenings ahead of holiday shopping season

The federal safety inspectors who protect kids from dangerous and deadly toys were not standing guard for nearly six months while this year’s holiday gifts entered the U.S. by the shipload. 

Princess palaces and playhouses, water guns and tricycles landed on store shelves and front doorsteps without the usual security checks for lead, chemicals or choking hazards. 

Government leaders had secretly sent home the nation’s toy police. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission pulled its inspectors from ports around the country in mid-March because of the threat of COVID-19. Leaders of the federal agency made the decision in private, without a warning to consumers or full disclosure to Congress, then continued the shutdown at the ports and a government testing laboratory until September, USA TODAY has found. That included spring and summer months that were their inspectors’ busiest last year.