Toy safety
'Buyer beware' is wise strategy for foreign-made products
Dec 12, 2010 | 2797 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Temple mom and attorney Valerie Farwell read "Playing with Safety," a new study from the American Association of Justice, she was startled.

When she got home and really checked, she was appalled. Several of the toys cited in the study as being highly toxic were in her child's toy box.

"I try to buy toys that are age-appropriate," she said, "but, like most parents, I figured that, if reputable retailers sell the toys and they are made by well-known manufacturers, they are safe for my child to play with."

But, according to the report — and to what she found at home — this isn't necessarily so.

Most of today's toys are actually made in China or other foreign country, regardless of what label is on the box or what country the manufacturer calls home. These manufacturers aren't held to the same sort of quality control as American companies. This makes it much more difficult to hold those companies accountable when they put a dangerous or defective product on the shelves.

Resources for federal regulatory enforcement — such as they are — are dangerously thin, especially as it applies to imported goods. According to the AAJ report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had only 15 employees to monitor the nearly 30,000 tons of toys that were imported from foreign markets in 2007, and only one person to test those toys for safety.

"After reading the AAJ article, I chose not to buy a set of metal dishes for Christmas for my child because they were made in China," said Farwell, an associate with the Cappolino Dodd and Krebs law firm in Cameron. She and other attorneys at the firm have experience helping families recover from the sometimes devastating effects of unknowingly using dangerous and defective products. "Talk about something they will put in their mouths! I truly don't think I would have thought twice about it otherwise."

Worse, Farwell noted, American companies seem to resist attempts to pull dangerous products from the shelves. A Public Citizen analysis of consumer recalls found that companies waited an average of 993 days to inform the CPSC of defective products and that the CPSC waited another 209 days before informing the general public of the problems.

"This is scary," said Farwell. "These toys contain dangerous levels of lead, cadmium and asbestos — and more than just trace amounts but, in some cases, enough to cause serious injury to children. But, because we've dismantled our safety net for consumer products and made it more difficult to hold American manufacturers and retailers accountable, retailers and toy companies who put profits first can threaten our children with impunity."

Farwell urged parents to take the time to learn about the toys they are buying, especially if the toy is made in China. "There is very good information on the Web," she said. "The CPSC has a good list of toys to avoid, and so does Consumer Reports."

Among the findings of the report:

• There has been a 54 percent increase in toy-related injuries from 1999-2008.

• 20 percent of children's jewelry has been found to contain dangerous levels of lead, even after the massive recalls of 2008.

• 12percent of children's jewelry contained dangerous levels of cadmium.

• 21 million toys recalled since 2006 contained small, powerful magnets; if a child should swallow two or more of these magnets, they can attract each other through intestinal walls, resulting in twisted, blocked or pinched intestines.

You can read the full report at
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