In 2007, more than 20 million toys were pulled off the shelves as a result of more than 60 recalls – more than twice the number of alerts the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued in 2006. While toy manufacturers have increased product testing in order to reduce the number of unsafe toys on the market, unfortunately, dangerous toys continue to be sold in the U.S. BBB is offering advice to holiday shoppers to help them avoid purchasing unsafe toys, as well as guidance for parents on what they should do if they find a recalled product in their child’s toy box.
So far in 2008, the CPSC has issued recalls on more than 50 toys due to the threat of lead poisoning, choking, burns and other hazards. However, the CPSC notes that less than 20 percent of recalled toys actually make it back to the manufacturer for proper disposal or repair.
“We don’t expect to see the same number of recalls that we did in 2007, but that doesn’t mean every toy unwrapped over the holidays is appropriate and safe,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “Fortunately, there are a few easy guidelines that parents and gift givers can follow to ensure that the toys they spend so much time selecting and purchasing this year are safe.”
BBB offers the following advice on toy safety this holiday season:
How to Find Out Which Toys Have Been Recalled
The CPSC keeps a list of recalled toys on their Web site at www.cpsc.gov. Consumers can also subscribe to their e-mail list (www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx) or RSS feed to receive updates on recalls as they occur. The Toy Industry Association also provides extensive information on toy safety and people can scroll through photos of recalled toys in an easy-to-use index on their Web site (www.toyinfo.org).
What to do if You Have Purchased a Recalled Toy
The CPSC negotiates the specific resolution over a recalled toy with the toy manufacturer – usually resulting in a refund or an exchange for a different toy. Parents can consult the CPSC Web site for specific resolutions and instructions.
Shoppers can also try returning a recalled toy directly to the retailer – rather than dealing directly with the manufacturer. Shoppers should understand though, that many major toy outlets have their own return policy for recalled toys, and policies may differ significantly.
While some recalled toys can cause noticeable injury to a child, toys that contain too much lead can have a less obvious, although still dangerous, affect. The CPSC warns that at-home lead-level testing kits are inaccurate, so parents worried about lead poisoning should first talk to their pediatrician about conducting a blood test.
If a child becomes injured by a potentially faulty or toxic toy, in addition to contacting medical personnel, parents can also call the CPSC hotline at (800) 638-2772.
More Safe Toy-Buying Advice from BBB
Be Careful When Shopping Online
Most large retailers are quick to pull products off the shelf, and, as a secondary precaution, flag the bar codes, so if the item is scanned at checkout, the cashier knows to not let consumers purchase the item. While online auction sites or bulletin boards may have policies against selling recalled toys, according to researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital, recalled toys and other unsafe products are often sold to unknowing parents. It’s very important to check with the CPSC and the Toy Industry Association before buying a new or used toy or product for children online.
Make Sure the Toy is Age-appropriate
Toy safety isn’t only about avoiding recalled products; gift-givers also need to make sure they are buying appropriate toys based on the age of the child. Consumers should follow the age recommendation listed on the package or toy. BBB reminds shoppers that siblings share toys, and a gift intended for an older child with small parts will likely fall into the hands of younger siblings and could pose a safety hazard.
Toy Recall Hotlines
Consumer Products Safety Commission: (800) 638-2772
Toy Industry Association: (888) 888- 4TOYS
Mattel: (800) 916-4498
Fisher-Price: (800) 991-2444
Toys R Us: (800) 869-7787
For more trustworthy advice to keep children safe and secure this holiday season, go to www.bbb.org.