WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The top U.S. product safety regulator on Tuesday urged manufacturers to remove lead from children's products now and not wait for congressional action that would essentially ban the toxic substance from toys.
"It just makes good sense to act now to remove lead from these products," Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Nancy Nord told an international product safety conference.
The U.S. Congress is debating legislation to revamp product safety regulation after millions of Chinese-made children's toys and products were recalled for excessive levels of lead.
The House of Representatives passed a bill unanimously in December and a Senate floor vote is expected soon on a tougher version of the proposed legislation. Both bills would boost funding for the safety agency and would slash the allowable lead content in toys.
Nord said lawmakers and manufacturers should not quibble over setting a level of lead in parts per million that will be tolerated.
"The time for testing tolerances is over," she said.
Her remarks echoed those she made on Monday in an address at the annual American International Toy Fair expo in New York that ends on Wednesday.
Toy manufacturers are already working to make sure products with toxic levels of lead do not reach store shelves, a spokesman for the industry said.
"We're taking every step to make sure this situation never happens again," Toy Industry Association spokesman Peter Sandel said.
Most toys sold in the United States are made in China.
Multiple recalls of millions of toys made by Mattel Inc MAT.N, RC2 Corp RCRC.O and other companies sparked congressional hearings. The recalls included some of the most popular branded toys such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Reporting by Karey Wutkowski, editing by Leslie Gevirtz