Toy Industry Announces Safety Coordination Initiative in Response to Unprecedented Recalls of Dangerous Products

In response to toy safety concerns raised during the summer of 2007 and the record number of unsafe toys recalled last year (and doubtlessly a number of product liability lawsuits), the U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have formed the Toy Safety Coordination Initiative, a developing program that is designed to improve the safety of toys sold in American and to rebuild consumer confidence in the safety of toys in the American marketplace.

The purpose of the initiative may be two-fold: to increase toys’ safety and to head-off stricter federal and state laws. The program has three components:
1. Design Hazard Analysis – A requirement for a risk assessment or design hazard analysis to be conducted on all new toy designs. Industry analysts say a majority of recalls come from careless designs that use dangerous small parts. Only a small percentage of recalls are due to hazards related to chemicals like lead paint.
2. A factory audit and accreditation program – Factories worldwide submit to regular manufacturing and quality audits in order to be certified under the new toy safety initiative that should help ensure that toys be made following Good Manufacturing Practice.
3. Compliance tests – of toy samples from the production line to help ensure that toys meet industry and government safety standards.

TIA-ANSI recommended that toy companies, including those that use overseas factories, perform mandatory safety checks by accredited labs to make sure their products meet current federal regulations pertaining to chemical, mechanical and other hazards. Presently, toy companies are not required to prove that their products have been tested for safety issues.

Children’s toys were recalled for a host of frightening reasons including lead paint on toyssmall magnets that can come loose from toys and perforate intestines, children’s Aqua Dots beads turn into “Date Rape Drug”, and asbestos found in a variety of consumer products, including one of last season’s biggest-selling Christmas toys, the CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit.

In a statement, the Toy Industry Association says that it supports Congress’ federal legislative efforts to strengthen U.S. toy safety laws and it believes a national, unified set of regulations is the best approach to ensure the safety of our nations children. At the same time, the TIA stated its opposition to legislation introduced in a number of individual states that the TIA accuses would create a patchwork of laws, confusing for consumers and industry alike, at no measurable increase to product safety.

For example, the Toy Industry Association warns that the legislation that passed in Maryland could ban many educational and fun toys Maryland children have played with safely for years. The TIA complained that it will be virtually impossible for toy manufacturers to comply with the aggressive timetable established by the Maryland Legislature for implementation of this bill. Therefore, many safe toys will simply not be available to parents if this bill becomes law, so says the TIA in what sounds like a scare tactic. (Remember the television commercials showing the empty playgrounds with the voice over saying that frivolous lawsuits made organizations fearful of providing playgrounds for children?)

Also, the TIA commended Washington’s Governor for vetoing two key parts a bill to regulate children’s toys and issuing strong cautions about the remaining sections, while excoriating the state legislators for purportedly ignoring complex issues in what TIA describes as their rush to pass the law.

In Maine, “An Act To Protect Children’s Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children’s Products” passed. The Senate voted 35-0 in support of the bill and the House voted 129 to 9 in support. The law will establish lists of chemicals already known to harm children based upon independent science; prioritize the worst chemicals based on children’s exposure, require manufacturers to disclose the use of these chemicals in products, share information with other states to work collaboratively to fill the gaps in the broken federal safety system for toxic chemicals; and authorize Maine to phase out the use of dangerous chemicals when safer alternatives are available, effective and affordable.

At a February 2008 meeting, the Toy Industry Association Board of Directors endorsed the general direction of a proposal for a toy testing and safety verification system for toys sold in the U.S. market. The period for public comment regarding the ANSI rules ended in late March of 2008. Now we await the ANSI boards final decision.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving dangerous and defective products . For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured by a product that was not properly manufactured, designed or labeled, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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