Toy Recalls Lower This Year

In 2007, toy recalls reached an historic high with toys that contained “lead paint, dangerous magnets,” and even the date rape drug, which rendered “children temporarily comatose,” says the Washington Post in an article today.  This year, however,  toy recalls have dropped 46 percent according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates provided to the paper.  And, while the CPSC is taking all the credit, some disagree, according to the Washington Post.

Good news aside, yesterday, federal safety regulators alerted parents to look out for “toys with small parts that could pose a choking hazard for children, including uninflated or broken balloons, and to supervise children around scooters, ride-on toys, and battery chargers and adapters” that are included with electronic toys and can pose fire and burn hazards, the Washington Post quoted the CPSC as saying.  According to the Washington Post, the CPSC named these items as the top toy hazards, but did note that toy recalls dropped to “74 in 2008 from 138 in 2007.”

The Washington Post noted that the information was reported at the CPSC’s annual toy safety news conference yesterday when long-acting CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord said the recall drop is due to “increased” agency “surveillance,” including increased “inspections at nine ports, stronger voluntary safety standards, and efforts by toy manufacturers to keep dangerous toys” off the market.  “Toys now on sale … have gone through the most intensive safety process to date,” Nord quoted to the Washington Post, adding that “We are looking harder for violations and finding less violations,” she added to the Washington Post.  Last year, over six million toys were recalled due to lead, the highest number ever due to product defects.  Now, the Washington Post reports that toy recalls over lead tainting declined to 45 recalls, down from “97 in 2007” when popular and trusted toys such as Elmo and Dora the Explorer prompted a rash of recalls and fear and anger among consumers.

The Washington Post article also reports that consumer advocates argue that the CPSC is not deserving of all the credit, pointing to “retailers such as Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, which” drove down this year’s “recall rate” by stepping up their suppliers safety requirements.  “That has helped more than any vigilance by the CPSC,” Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. PIRG in Washington, was quoted as saying in the Washington Post piece.

The Washington Post points out that this is the “last holiday shopping season before” new “safety standards for toys” become effective in February 2009.  The new requirements are part of an act signed into law this summer.  The law, says the Washington Post, includes “mandatory testing and certification by independent labs.”  The law also bans some phthalates in toys.  Phthalates are a toxic chemical used to make plastic more flexible.  Unfortunately, most toys for sale now were made and ordered months prior and some sellers are using the time to sell off soon-to-be-banned products.  The Washington Post notes that consumer advocates have been concerned that manufacturers and retailers may rush to dump out-of-compliance inventory “by selling it off in the U.S. or exporting it to countries with weaker safety standards.”

The weakened economy is also of concern because “consumers may shop at thrift stores, online auctions,” and bargain sites, according the piece.  The Washington Post also mentioned that Nord advised buyers and sellers to check the CPSC Website to determine whether a product has been recalled. The new law makes it illegal to sell or export a recalled product, pointed out Nord.  Until the new standards take effect, declaring toys safer than ever is a bit premature, Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America told the Washington Post. “While some responsible retailers have taken a pro-active step to truly implement higher standards for their products, not everyone has, so consumers still have to beware and can’t assume a product is safe,” she added.

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