* First, avoid toys made in China, where lax regulations often mean that anything goes as far as toy safety is concerned. While not all toys from China are unsafe, the country's track record of producing hazardous goods demands a precautionary stance.
* Choose toys made in Western Europe, where countries have strong consumer protection policies. Toys made in America are a good second choice, but consumers should be cautious because lack of domestic regulation means certain hazards like phthalates (see below) may be present.
* Shop in small "boutique" toy stores and mail order catalogs. These merchants traditionally shy away from the mass-market offerings that are the most at-risk for problems and instead offer higher quality toys from more discerning manufacturers and imports from safer countries.
* Unless they're clearly labeled as "phthalate-free," avoid soft plastic toys, which often use these toxic chemicals to maintain pliability. Playthings that commonly contain phthalates include vinyl and other flexible plastic toys as well as polymer play clays. Toys made in Europe are generally safe as the E.U. has largely banned phthalates from children's products. New U.S. regulations will ban phthalates from toys starting in February 2009, but a recent regulatory ruling allows manufacturers to sell out their remaining stock of existing phthalate-contaminated items first.
* Watch out for lead, which in recent years has shown up in the paints and parts of all kinds of toys, including big name brands and vinyl items. Lead test kits are the only way to tell if lead is present in any toy you've bought. If it is, return that toy for a refund.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Toy Safety This Christmas Season...
The excellent Seventh Generation website has a great new article on tips for buying toys that are safe for our kids: