World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH), a non-profit corporation, held its annual conference last month to warn parents and gift-buyers of dangers in the toy industry. The group used the conference to call for more accountability in the toy industry and clearer labels to alert buyers to possible product dangers. WATCH also released its annual “10 Worst Toys” list and highlighted the 66 toy recalls this years, recalls with resulted in 7,890,000 units of toys being yanked from the shelves.
44% of toy-related fatalities are caused by choking, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled at least 25 toys this year that pose this risk. In addition, 26 toy recalls this year were due to high levels of lead. According to WATCH, the multiple recalls and the poor labeling on many toys can be seen as an indication that some in the toy industry are putting profitability ahead of consumer safety.
WATCH points out that parents need to be aware of the fact that just because a toy has not been recalled, that does not necessarily guarantee that it is safe. Many unsafe toys remain on shelves, despite the efforts of the CPSC. These toys may pose strangulation risks, risks of puncture wounds, burn injury dangers, impact injury risks, and many other perils.
Each year, children are treated in emergency rooms or are killed due to unsafe toys. Legislation is being passed to help improve toy safety. In 2008, The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law. The act gives the CPSC more power to regulate and stop those toy manufactures who distribute and create unsafe toys. However, much of the strictest legislation will not be passed until next year.
WATCH points out that the sheer scope of the toy industry may make it hard for the CPSC and other industry authorities to crack down on unsafe toys. The toy industry is a $30 billion a year industry, selling 3 billion toys in this country each year. Policing every manufacturer, importer, and retailer may simply require more resources than are currently in place. Additionally, as WATCH points out, some toys are sold through small dollar stores or through non-traditional means, such as eBay or used goods stores. Policing these retailers is much harder and the responsibility of these retailers is also sometimes more nebulous.
Therefore, WATCH recommends that parents do their own policing by checking each toy against official recalls. WATCH and other industry experts also suggest that parents carefully look over every toy their child receives to check for potential dangers.