Toying with Safety

OPB | Dec. 17, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:47 p.m.

When it comes to toys, what’s the best balance between cost and safety and who should be ultimately responsible?

Parents have a lot to consider as they brave winter weather to purchase holiday gifts for their kids. In addition to tough economic times squeezing their budgets, many parents still worry about traces of toxic materials in toys. Mattel announced today that it will pay $12 million to 39 different states including Oregon. The money comes from a settlement the company reached with the state attorneys general over an investigation into toys shipped from China to the U.S. last year that were later found to contain unacceptably high levels of lead. The Oregon Department of Justice plans to spend their share of the settlement (approximately $220,000) on consumer protection and education efforts.

The massive recall of lead-tainted toys in 2007 also lead to new laws. Earlier this year, Washington passed a law instituting the most rigorous toy safety standards in the nation. A new federal law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect in February. The federal regulation provides stricter bans on lead and phthalates (a chemical found in plastic) in toys and also requires manufacturers to test their products in order to prove they are free of these toxins. There is some opposition to the new law. Small, independent toy makers and the stores that carry their products say the testing requirements will drive them out of business because they won’t be able to afford to test their products. They are calling on lawmakers to modify the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act before it takes effect. Two nonprofit groups also take issue with the law and have filed suit against the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying the new law will not prevent retailers from selling banned toys that they already have in stock.

Are you shopping for toys this holiday season? Do you make or sell toys? How do you ensure the toys you create or purchase are safe?

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Photo credit: ntr23 / Flickr / Creative Commons

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