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Dollar Stores and Non-Traditional Retailers Still Pose Toy Risk, Even As Large Retailers Take Products Liability Seriously

After the multiple toy recalls of 2007, many parents believe that 2008 will be a safer year to buy toys. If the toys are bought at large toy retailers or from major toy manufacturers, parents are correct. Many large stores – including Walmart, Target, Toys”R”Us, and others – have begun testing the toys they sell independently, while large manufactures such as Mattel have instituted strict new rules to ensure that toys rolling out of the factories meet or exceed all safety guidelines.

Despite this good news, however, several sources – including the Consumers Union – report that product recalls are actually up this year. The Consumers Union claims that product recalls increased 19% in 2008, with two-thirds of the recalls affecting products for children. Nearly a quarter of the recalls involved lead.

According to the Consumers Union, the majority of products – 97% — that were found to be unsafe were imported. 81% of the unsafe products were made in China. The Consumers Union reports that 3 million products recalled were sold at three dollar stores — Dollar General, Dollar Tree Stores and Family Dollar.

The Consumers Union suggests that parents can keep their families safe by using caution when shopping at dollar stores. The organization also suggests that parents use extra precautions when buying used goods. According to the Consumers Union, parents should check all products they are considering purchasing and all existing products in their home
at to determine whether any of the products have been affected by recalls. Parents may be surprised to learn just how many products pose choking or burn injury risks.

The Consumers Union points out that most dangerous products are only found to be dangerous after they are purchased or are imported to stores. It is therefore the responsibility of parents to ensure that the toys they bring into their homes are safe. The Consumers Union is agitating to increase the responsibility of manufacturers, importers and retailers, but new legislation may take years.

A number of toy safety groups — including World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) are also good resources for parents. Most experts agree that a healthy dose of caution and some research are needed to prevent injuries against children and minors. Many parents are simply choosing to shop with major retailers to avoid perils and some parents are even asking gift-givers and family to bring unwrapped toys so that the toys can be checked before they are wrapped and placed under the tree.