The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was pretty much knee-jerk reaction to some high-profile toy recalls that occurred in 2007 and 2008. While better standards were needed to protect children, many felt that this act went too far, too quickly and was even too vague for its own good.
The law requires that every batch of every product be tested by a third party for lead and phthalates (which can add up to be very expensive). This means that every time new plastic comes in for a new batch of rulers or they bring in some new paint, or even the metal strip in the ruler, all need to be tested for lead and phthalates. Even if nothing has changed since the last batch.
This law drove many companies out of business and nearly shuttered hundreds more before a last minute extension/clarifications were made early in 2009, I believe. Even some European companies (where the testing is more stringent) stopped importing their toys into the US with the new, higher cost as the reason. I'm not sure if this part has been cleared up or not, but the law also included local craftspeople who carve wooden toys or sew bibs (each piece of pine and each bolt of fabric would have to have been tested for lead and phthalates)
I work in a small, locally owned toy store and before the law science kits have already become much more simple (and boring in my opinion) since I was a kid. I assume this is due to companies concerned about litigation from parents who give a kit designed for a 10-year-old to their "really advanced" 5-year-old. We have discovered that 90% of kids are "advanced for their age" or at least that's what is said about the children when they are being shopped for.
Without granting exceptions to certain components of science kits (and perhaps a few other "toys") they will become even more simple and America will fall further behind the rest of the world in science and math proficiency.