Ok, so we released our top list of award winners on Monday (you can see them at http://www.toyportfolio.com). The list was screened for lead content and even though we have to repeat the caveat that only this particular batch of toys tested lead free– we felt pretty good about the list. Less than 24 hours later, we were greeted with the upsetting news that Fisher-Price is voluntarily recalling one of the toys on our list for small parts. The Laugh n Learn Learning Kitchen is a great activity center for older babies and toddlers but apparently if you pull hard on the faucet or the hands on the clock, pieces can become loose posing a small parts problem. For info on the recall visit http://www.service.mattel.com. We’re pretty upset that Mattel, knowing that they had won the award weeks ago, did not give us a heads up…but that’s the nature of the recall restrictions. The company told us yesterday that they will be shipping replacement parts in 3-5 weeks to consumers that call or write in, and that new production runs will be shipping very soon.
Last week I activated my new business credit card. Usually not something to write about but the customer service person had several questions for me when she heard the name of my business. Do I really need to take the recalled trains away from my son? He really loves them.
So does it really matter? The answer is a resounding yes. The health risk from lead poisoning is extreme- loss of IQ, learning delays, permanent brain damage, kidney failure and death. Seriously, this is real. The CPSC reports that a four year old died from lead poisoning after swallowing a charm that had embedded lead. Our biggest message this year is to be your child’s own consumer watchdog. Check your playroom and anywhere else your child plays for toys that have been recalled. The complete list is at cpsc.gov. We were surprised to learn that only 6% of toys that are recalled are returned (of course many would say that companies don’t always make it easy!). The key is to make sure the toys are taken away from your child. A reporter this summer asked me “but what happens if your child cries?” The question floored me and stuck with me. The message about the health risk clearly has not been made strongly enough.
The customer service person then asked the question I have really come to dread this season…so what should I buy? This year my answer is not as enthusiastic. It also comes with a huge asterisk.
The majority of our scheduled Platinum Award list tested negative for lead. While this is great news—it’s qualified. We tested one batch of toys. Those specific toys were fine and you’ll find them reviewed on our website but here’s our concern. The same products six months from now could have a problem if something changes in the chain of production. Until the government requires mandatory independent random batch testing, there is no guarantee about their lead free status going forward.
The good news – yes there is some. The lead issue is completely fixable. The State of Illinois wisely passed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, that among other things bans both surface painted and embedded lead in toys and children products in excess of 600 parts per million. While lead poisoning experts indicate that even minimal amounts of lead can pose a health risk, at least it’s a start. Presently the federal government does not even regulate embedded lead that is used commonly as an additive in plastic and vinyl.
We are calling on federal and state officials to take up this cause and act quickly so that we can all go back to sharing toys with kids without the fear that we are bring home something dangerous, not playful.