CPSC begins probe: Are Zhu Zhu Hamsters Safe?

December 7, 2009

After the consumer group, Good Guide, raised issues about their finding on the level of antimony in the Zhu Zhu hamsters, the government agency is beginning a probe on the issue. Cepia LLC, the manufacturer of the Zhu Zhu Hamsters, is standing by the safety of their toys.   Read the story from Reuters.


Toy Safety: Small Parts in Toys Still a Concern

July 15, 2009

LEGO has been a consistent winner of our top Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award each year–often with multiple winners.  This year will be no exception–except in one category.

When we were at Toy Fair in February we were really excited to see a renewed commitment to the DUPLO line–designed for kids 2 & up. There were Fire Stations,  Trucks, Zoos…all great fun and we knew our preschool testers would love giving them a try.

Each set has arrived and while they are wonderful for 3s & up, we are concerned about the size of some of the pieces in these sets for kids under three. While most of the pieces are big and chunky, we found one or two pieces that caused concern. Let us be clear, all of the pieces meet current government guidelines.  Each of the pieces in question (see images below) extend outside of the “choke tube” and therefore are completely legal.  We wondered though–why make these pieces so close?  The CPSC recommends that parents use a toilet paper roller as a home test…all of these pieces fail under this test.

So we asked the team at LEGO whether there was a design or developmental advantage to having two year olds handle such small pieces and why the pieces were so close to the edge. Here is their response:

Thanks for your question about the DUPLO Zoo* item and some of the accessories it includes.  As you know, all LEGO products are rigorously tested and meet or exceed all safety regulations in the more than 130 countries where the products are sold.  Because the safety of children is our primary concern, we also have our own safety and testing standards that we layer on top of the regulated requirements.

We always make effort to have play imitate life, so the size of the suitcase is proportionate to the DUPLO figure.  We would not include an accessory that could potentially cause harm to a child or that does not pass the CPSC standard for small parts and age grading as regulated by the official choke tube test.  The accessory does not fit completely into the choke tube and use and abuse testing reveals that it also does not break into small parts that will fit completely in the tube.  While we understand the “home” test potential of the toilet paper tube, it is not a regulated means by which to measure safety as it has no bottom to mimic a real-life scenario.

*Since we asked this question about the DUPLO Zoo, we have received several other set that raise similar issues for us.

While we appreciate that the idea of scale is important–we’d side on the up-scaling or eliminating these items for this age range.  The working light piece on the top of the  truck (one of the coolest aspects of the garbage truck–and also in the fire station set) could have been attached to a bigger piece, the fireman’s ax could be attached to his  hand, the same with the pitchfork…you get the idea. The flower and the fish…just look so inviting.

All of these products would have been Platinum Award contenders if not for these small pieces.  We do recommend them for preschoolers–but unfortunately we don’t feel comfortable with the existing age label.  If you buy one of these sets and you have a child under three or a child who still mouths his toys…remove those pieces that concern you and you’ll be left with a engaging product.

We hope LEGO will remodel these “close” pieces.  Last year, after our concern over STEP 2’s hot dogs (that came with some of their kitchens)…the hot dogs were redesigned…so that the  hot dog is now encased  in a bun–making it a much wider and safer prop for play.

Below are some of the pieces, in our opinion, that are unnecessarily too close for comfort.  Again–completely within the law, but we see no reason for them to be this size.

legolightlegoshovellegosuitcaselegoflowerlegoaxlegofish


One Year Extension for New Toy Safety Requirements

February 2, 2009

Toy makers got an extension last week  to meet some of the new requirements under the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  You should know that the stay does not apply to the following:

“The stay does not apply to:

  • Four requirements for third-party testing and certification of certain children�s products subject to:
  • Certification requirements applicable to ATV�s manufactured after April 13, 2009.
  • Pre-CPSIA testing and certification requirements, including for: automatic residential garage door openers, bike helmets, candles with metal core wicks, lawnmowers, lighters, mattresses, and swimming pool slides; and
  • Pool drain cover requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act.”

To read the Commission’s complete press release, click here. While I’ve heard from some of our testers about their concerns about the delay, I’ve also been in touch with small toy companies that want to comply but are completely confused as to how they achieve full compliance. The mechanics of compliance need to be address so that everyone knows what they need to do and it needs to be set up so that companies can do it without going out of business.

Much of the innovation in this industry has always comes from small start up companies– yet I can’t imagine taking on this industry at the moment. And as much as toy makers have been slammed in the last two years…many are really sound  businesses that strive to make quality products.   From our conversations, they want to do the right thing–they just would like some clarification. If you take a look at the faq’s section of the TIA’s website you’ll see just a glimpse of the scope of questions confronting toy makers.

So to answer some of your emails–yes, we’re disappointed…but more with the lack of clarity from the CPSC.  Our hope is that they streamline the process so that companies can easily comply and restore the public’s confidence in the industry as a whole.


Sign Up for CPSC Safety Recall Alerts

November 13, 2007

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.