Toy safety hot topic at Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recent holiday season hysteria over the safety of some of the toys made overseas lodged a big lump of coal in many kids' stockings.

Not only did concerns over lead paint and other quality control issues result in a sleigh full of product recalls, it also prompted Congress to take action. A new law now requires that manufacturers put in place more stringent testing procedures and reduce the levels of toxic chemicals in their toys.

The new regulations should go a long way toward giving parents confidence in the toys they are buying for their kids. But the Grinchly news this holiday is that many of these stricter rules are still not being invoked. That means it still falls to Moms and Dads to stay vigilant about the safety of the toys they are putting under the tree this year.

The good news is that, according to toy safety experts, there are resources available to parents -- from either the retailer or the manufacturer -- to help parents determine just how safe the toys on their kids' wish lists are.

These are some questions regarding toy safety that concerned consumers can ask their retailers or wholesalers:

*Are your toys lead free?

The federal government requires that products contain no more than 600 ppm (parts per million) of lead, with many states setting the limit at 90 ppm and consumer groups pushing for 40ppm.

*Do you periodically check your stock for safety, including for lead?

It's a good idea for retailers to check the safety of products themselves, not just initial samples from the factory, and random testing is an excellent and effective way to do so.

*Do you test your toys?

Make sure that a sample of every product being sold, whether it be toys, kits, clothing or furniture, is tested to meet all applicable regulations and standards.

*Do your company tests meet or exceed federal and state requirements?

The federal government sets certain baseline standards, with many states imposing even stricter requirements. Even so, many companies have made a commitment to meet or exceed both state and federal requirements.

Are companies and retailers required to document their safety procedures?

No, but the more transparent a company is about its safety policies and procedures, the more comfortable consumers should feel about its products.

We encourage strict enforcement of such safety measures. Toy safety should not be a concern during such a joyous season.