The toy industry spends an estimated $300 million a year on safety testing and inspection of toys, and approximately three billion toys are sold in America each year. And so far this year, more than 20 million toys have been pulled off shelves as a result of more than 60 recalls. This is more than twice the number of alerts the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued last year.
Perhaps even more concerning is that, according to the CPSC, less than 20 percent of recalled toys make it back to the manufacturer for proper disposal or repair.
“The hot topic this holiday season for many parents and relatives of children is a trust issue – ‘which brands and which toys can I trust?’” said Steve Cole, president and CEO, Council of Better Business Bureaus. “The health and safety of children cannot be left to chance. There is plenty of reliable information available about toy recalls, and BBB is encouraging everyone who will be giving or donating toys this year to take a few minutes and become a smart, safe toy shopper this season.”
If you’re holding a holiday shopping list that includes the names of a few good boys or girls, BBB offers the following advice to ensure that the toys you give are safe:
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. You can also subscribe to their e-mail list (http://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 you can scroll through photos of recalled toys in an easy-to-use index on their Web site (http://www.toyinfo.org/index.html).
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. Check with the CPSC Web site for the specific resolutions for the recalled toy you’ve purchased.
If you purchased the toy from a retailer, try returning the item to them first to potentially save yourself the time it will take to deal directly with the toy manufacturer. Major toy outlets often have their own return policy for recalled toys.
Consumers should certainly be aware that the CPSC warns that at-home lead-level testing kits are inaccurate, so if you’re worried about lead poisoning, first talk to your pediatrician about conducting a blood test. As a second step, if you think your child has been hurt by a potentially faulty or toxic toy, call the CPSC hotline at (800) 638-2772.
Additional Safe Toy-Buying advice
Be careful when shopping online
Most large brick and mortar stores are often 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 you 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 being 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; you also need to make sure you’re buying appropriate toys for the age of the child. Read and follow the age recommendation listed on the package or toy. Remember that siblings share toys. If you buy the six-year-old a toy with small parts and he has a three-year-old sibling, that could pose a safety hazard for the younger child.
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 your loved ones safe and secure this holiday season, go to www.bbb.org.