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Toy Safety Guidelines Released by CPSC, As Consumers Urged to Be on Guard for Defective Toys

Nov 23, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

As toy recalls continue to plague consumers, toy safety is very much on the minds of parents right now.  With the busiest shopping season of the year is upon us, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is emphasizing the importance of safe shopping and says that knowing the ABCs of toy safety will make for happy holidays:  A for Awareness, B for Benefits, and C for Consumers:  Awareness Benefits Consumers.

Awareness involves knowing the CPSC exists, what the agency does to protect consumers, and what poses the greatest risks.  The CPSC claims it is their increased scrutiny of toys that has led to consumer Benefits. The CPSC says it is taking the steps required to remove dangerous products from stores and more companies are testing products and reporting safety problems.  There are over 400 annual children product recalls that do receive media coverage, the CPSC says Consumers should stay informed and aware of recalls by signing up to receive email notification of recalls at

Many of the CPSC toy safety recommendations are common sense.  The agency urges consumers to look for labels that give age and safety recommendations; select toys to suit the child’s age, abilities, skills, and interest.  Look for sturdy construction.  No toys with sharp edges and points for children under eight, no small magnets for children under six—when swallowed, magnets can cause serious injuries and death—and no small parts for children under three.  Immediately discard plastic wrappings and keep older children’s toys away from young children.  Read instructions and warnings on battery chargers; some are unable prevent overcharging and can cause thermal burn hazards.  Riding toys, skateboards, and in-line skates go fast and falls could be deadly; safety gear should be sized to fit.  Projectile toys are for older children and can cause serious eye injuries.

This year, the CPSC recalled 61 toys involving more than 25 million product. Over six million toys have been recalled due to lead, the highest number ever due to product defects.  Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and can cause mental and physical retardation and behavioral and other health problems in children.  In adults, lead can damage the nervous system.

When recalls occur, firms take steps to remove products from market, but it is impossible to police toys sold at thrift stores, garage sales, and Internet auction sites.  A large variety of recalled toys were found selling individually and in bulk via retail and business-to-businesses sites.  Recalls also extend to non-toy products and sometimes, action is not swift.  The death of an 8-month old baby boy prompted the recall of 36,000 racks sold by Jetmax. It took three weeks for the CPSC to pick up a faulty Bassettbaby’s crib for review.  Nearly 9000 were recalled due to a construction flaw posing entrapment and strangulation hazards.  Nearly one million Graco and Simplicity cribs were recalled due to a design flaw resulting in three children’s deaths; the CPSC was criticized for its handling of the investigation and, according to the Chicago Tribune, the recall was only issued after the agency learned the paper was going to press about their neglect.  

The CPSC has been harshly criticized for being influenced by the companies it regulates.  Incomprehensively, high-level officials accepted free trips paid for by the industries they were charged to oversee.

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