According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), safeguards and standards put into place in recent years are making a significant positive impact on the safety of toys in the marketplace. These safeguards, CPSC says, have contributed to a dramatic decline in toy recalls since 2008. In 2010, there were a total of 44 toy recalls, compared to 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008.
Among the safeguards cited by CPSC was the signing of H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which mandated the use of American National Standard ASTM F963, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. The standard was developed by ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator.
ASTM F963 covers possible hazards in toys that may not be readily apparent and may be encountered during normal, intended use or reasonably foreseeable abuse. The document outlines requirements and test methods for toys intended for use by children under 14 years of age, and sets age limits for various requirements. These limits take into account the nature of the hazards as well as the expected mental or physical ability of a child to cope with the hazards.
H.R. 4040 also established stringent lead content and lead paint limits, and restricted the use of certain phthalates — chemical substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity.
"The toy industry has implemented rigorous standards and enhanced inspection and testing of toys to verify their compliance with the strict U.S. standards for toy safety," said Joan Lawrence, vice president of safety standards and government affairs for the Toy Industry Association (TIA), an ANSI member. "Protecting children will always be the industry's highest priority."
Lawrence is also chair of the ASTM Subcommittee responsible for the ASTM F963 toy safety standard.
Though toy recalls and toy-related deaths have declined, new statistics from CPSC show that toy-related injuries have actually increased from 152,000 in 2005 to 186,000 in 2009.
Lawrence cautions that most injuries are the result of misusing a toy in a way that was not intended. Referring to "toy-related" rather than "toy-cause" injuries, Lawrence encourages parents and other caregivers to keep toys organized and off stairs or high-traffic areas in the home, and to keep toys away from unsupervised areas (pools, bathtubs, driveways or streets with traffic) so they don't lure a child into a dangerous situation.
The CPSC offered three similar steps to help parents and adults combat toy-related injuries:
1. Which Toy for Which Child - Always choose age appropriate toys.
2. Gear Up for Safety - Include safety gear whenever shopping for sports-related gifts or ride-on toys, including bicycles, skates, and scooters.
3. Location, Location, Location - Be aware of your child's surroundings during play. Young children should avoid playing with ride-on toys near automobile traffic, pools, or ponds. They also should avoid playing in indoor areas associated with hazards, such as kitchens and bathrooms, and in rooms with corded window blinds.
Safety should be a consideration before, during, and after the gifts are given. The CPSC recommends that all packaging and plastic wrappings on toys be immediately discarded before they become dangerous play things. Toys appropriate for older children should be kept away from younger siblings. And when it comes to toys with batteries, charging should always be supervised by adults, as chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children.
With these safeguards in mind, this year's holiday toyland can be much more Ho, ho, ho than Oh, oh, no! for kids across America.For additional toy safety information, watch CPSC's toy safety video and visit TIA's site, www.ToyInfo.org.