Read this article in the Examiner by Patricia Walston–it takes you step by step to see if you are entitled to part of the settlement money.
It’s really unfortunate that wooden trains have taken such a hit this past year. Wooden trains are one of our favorite play experiences for preschoolers. Putting down tracks is really an open-ended puzzle (hence our recommendation to stay clear of play tables that recommend gluing down tracks). If you’ve ever watched a preschooler work at the process of putting the tracks down, you can almost sense the brain power involved. I’ve also discovered that somewhere around four, most kids are far better at figuring out the tracks than their parents!
Since Brio was acquired by K’nex, the train line has taken a back seat to their core business. Sure there were a couple of new add-ons shown at toy fair, but I miss the “lines” of trains that had interesting themes. Having covered wooden train sets for over seventeen years (how many people can say that?), it’s sad to see how the line has diminished. The lead issue also rocked the world of parents who believed that they were bringing home heirlooms to their kids when they bought pricey bridges and sets from Learning Curve’s Thomas the Tank Engine line. The bridges, stations, and other accessories are always great from this line. It will be interesting to see if they can regain the trust of parents.
So you can imagine that we were pretty happy to see Plan Toys new Road and Rail set. The handsomely designed station also converts into the storage box for the whole set (pretty neat). We look forward to testing this set. Plan Toys had a number of sleekly designed wooden play settings (garage, airport, etc.) that have that level of design you won’t mind having out in your home. The company also reports that they are phthalates and lead free. We look forward to testing these sets when they’re ready.
We were delighted with today’s news that both TRU and Wal-Mart have raised the bar on safety standards for toys. Not waiting for Congress to act, these two super retailers are moving the industry along in producing safer products.Both retailers are joining California in banning phthalates (a softener added to plastics that has been linked to serious health risks) and reducing the levels of surface coated lead way below the current federal standard of 600 ppm (parts per million) to 90 ppm. What’s left? We will continue to call for the same reduction in embedded lead. Only the state of Illinois regulates the levels of embedded lead (requiring toys sold in the state to have levels below 600 ppm). The CPSC reports that a child died from lead poisoning after ingesting a charm that had excessive levels of embedded lead. This is a real risk that also needs to be addressed in all products for children.We need the government to follow the market–set the standards and require mandatory testing.
Good news! The following companies have sent in verification forms for several of their products.
Edushape, Mudpuppy, Lego Systems, Publications International, Little Tikes, Step 2, Kidsgive, Lisa LeLeu
We hope now that the new toy season in underway that more companies will submit forms! We are not independently verifiying with a lab, but we are encouraged that these companies have listed their lab and signed off on the form that their products are lead and phthalates free.
I’m happy to report that we just received verification forms from Edushape certifying that their products are lead free. The products that were submitted have won awards from us in the past: Wood-Like Soft Blocks, Kiddy Connects (last year’s Platinum Award winner), Mini Edublocks, Rollipop Stacker, and Caterpillar Race Game. We’re delighted that Edushape has filled out all the forms–especially since these are many of our favorite products for toddlers and preschoolers. Bravo!
Number of Companies Complying with New Safety Requirements: 2 (Publication International and Edushape)
Our new safety protocol is on our website at www.toyportfolio.com.
Update: The number of companies that have submitted our safety form indicating that their product has zero lead: zero.
The big issue this holiday season for reporters (and retailers)…is whether the lead safety issue will affect our buying patterns. Soon the numbers will reveal themselves, but I think the question is wrong.
If everyone buys the same number of toys, does that mean it doesn’t matter whether we have toys with dangerous levels of lead? If consumers buy more made in the USA products, does that send a message to the majority of companies that manufacture overseas? Once the holidays are over, will the coverage end?
A new list was posted this week at healthytoys.org of toys that have been tested for lead. The group also looked at levels of other substances of concern: cadmium, arsenic, mercury and pvc (polyvinyl chloride). The group tested over 1200 toys and found lead in 35% of them. The website has a lot of information on it that you may find interesting – not clear why they require viewers to register to view the lists. While we are not personally in contact with this group that has brought together a coalition of national/regional environmental health organizations, from our point of view, the more information out there the better. For our list of toys that tested lead-free*, visit our website www.toyportfolio.com.
A few weeks ago we announced that going forward companies would have to comply with our new safety guidelines when submitting a toy for review. We now require companies to sign off that their product has ZERO lead and ZERO phthalates. This means that the product may not have surfaced coated or embedded lead. Currently the federal government allows up to 600 ppm of surface coated lead and has no regulations as to embedded lead or phthalates. For more details on the differences between the two types of lead, visit www.toyportfolio.com. We have also indicated to past award winners that if they would like to be listed on a lead free list, they need to supply us with the form.
So far the number of companies that have complied: zero.
We will keep you posted. We will start posting the names of the companies that do comply. A number of companies have been in touch to let us know that they are working on it – but as of today, we have not received a single signed form.
One of the best steps you can take this holiday season is to sign up for recall email alerts which you can do at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx. This is the fastest way to get the information you need to determine if you have a recalled product and how to return the product for a refund. Unfortunately the companies all seem to have different policies for getting your money back or obtaining a replacement product.
We’ve noticed that during the past two weeks there are a number of folks suggesting that all is fine in the toy industry. Some recommending that parents stick with big stores and well known manufacturers as a way to assure safety. Others recommending buying products that are Made in the USA or buying from small mom and pop stores since they know what’s best and what’s not.
All of this advice may be intended to make you feel better this holiday season, but it really doesn’t work. While we’ve answered many of the common myths on our website, www.toyportfolio.com, it does seem that most of this spin seems to ignore the facts of the toy industry.
Both big and small retailers and manufacturers have been involved in the recent recalls. There really isn’t one safe place or one safe company to buy from–that’s not comforting but until the government really steps up their regulations and enforcement of the industry there will continue to be recalls.
Made in the USA sounds great–but take note that they may be made with imported component parts. Plush toys also sound like a safe choice, but again there have been plush and fabric toys recalled because they had painted features that contained excessive levels of lead in the paint.
After talking to a reporter this morning about these issues, she kept asking the same question…so what are you recommending? Honestly, this is the question we’ve been working on for months. We’re happy to have a Lead-Free* Toy List that’s full of good choices (they’re on our website)–but as always I’m always stuck saying that we only tested one sample of these these toys and that we can’t guarantee that other samples or other production runs will have the same result. Not very satisifying the reporter pointed out. True….but then again that’s where we are for this holiday season.