Category: toy recalls

Help Save the Nice Toys!

By , January 11, 2009 10:49 am

Help save hand-crafted and high quality European toys!

A quick update on more that you can do to help revise the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA):

This is really easy, will take you less than a minute, and could be potentially very effective in raising awareness in Washington about the issue of overly broad toy testing requirements:

Go to this link at

Save Small Business From the CPSIA

and vote for this cause.  The top 10 causes will be presented to President-Elect Obama for review.  This issue is currently #4 and so it is definitely in the running!  Hooray!  Read more about what your vote means here.

You can also put this widget on your blog or website to help spread the word:

If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, here is a brief summary:

In August 2008 Congress passed the CPSIA with the goal of improving toy safety. It bans lead and phthalates from toys and children’s products and also mandates lots of extra testing and labeling. Well, the thought is nice, but in reality only large corporations will be able to afford the certification required. There is no exception for hand-crafted toys, or toys already certified under strict European standards.

The statute is overly broad and will effectively prohibit the sale of handmade toys in the United States. Even German toymaker Selecta has decided that the new law is too burdensome and has already withdrawn from the U.S. market.

If you want to, you can read more about this issue in these posts of mine:

Auf Wiedersehen Selecta (…Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)

Our Last Selecta Toy


Auf Wiedersehen Selecta ( … Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)

By , December 9, 2008 9:34 pm

Are bootleg toys in your future? Don’t laugh. Read on…

It was a sad moment yesterday when I learned via an email from Quiet Hours Toys (a favorite Unplugged Toystore) that one of my very favorite toy manufacturers, German company Selecta, will be leaving the U.S. market as of December 31, 2008.

The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed in August 2008, prohibits phthalates and lead in toys sold in the U.S., mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys, and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

Sounds great, especially the lead and phthalate part, but there are a few unintended consequences of this broadly-painted solution:

– A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
– A work-at-home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
– A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
– And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

–  Handmade Toy Alliance

Selecta is the first quality-toy casualty of the new law. Selecta has decided to withdraw from the U.S. market. It’s toys comply with European EN71 and ASTM standards, but meeting the new CPSIA standards would require a cost increase of at least 50%, thus pricing the toys out of the market:

Among the higher costs Selecta said were associated with meeting the CPSIA’s new guidelines were those related to testing procedures for products shipped to the U.S. that are “different than the testing procedures required for the rest of the world, resulting in separate testing for each product destined for the USA”; new shipment labeling regulations that “significantly increases the labor associated with shipping”; and product liability insurance increases “due to changing regulations and their varied interpretations.

Selecta Exits U.S. Market Over Cost Concerns – Toy industry news:

I leave you with an interesting summary of the situation from the email I received:

What this means is small, innovative companies that typically make niche products, will be forced out of business, or forced to narrow their product range and sell to the mass market.  Product availability and selection will diminish.  We will be primarily left with imported plastic toys from China.  Yes, quite ironic isn’t it.

Yes, it is ironic.


What can you do?  The Handmade Toy Alliance offers some useful suggestions and contact links:

Please write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys.  Use our sample letter or write your own.  You can find your Congress Person here and Senator here.

Also (from the email):

URGENT Action:
The Subcommitte that put this law together is meeting to review its implementation on Wednesday.  We need to send a message to them to revise the law or its implementation in ways that will maintain the integrity of the safety standards, but will not decimate the children’s natural products market.  Here are the details of the meeting:

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.  The hearing is entitled “Implementation of the CPSIA:  Urgent Questions about Application Dates, Testing and Certification, and Protecting Children.”  This is an oversight hearing examining implementation of Public Law 110-314 (H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)).  Witnesses will be by invitation only.
The staff briefing for this hearing will be held on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 4:00 p.m. in room 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

Here is a link to the list of Committee Members.  Please contact your Representative of Congress. If any one of these Representatives on the Subcommittee is YOUR representative, PLEASE be sure to call & email them to voice your concerns about the provisions in the law as they affect you and the children’s products industry in general.  Please do this as soon as you are able.

Here is a link to some suggestions for talking to our representatives from WAHM Solutions.

What else can you do?  Pass this on in your e-newsletters, in your stores, among your friends.  There is much disinformation in the market, and it is up to us to warn consumers and colleagues of the pending disappearance of the natural & specialty toys we have come to rely on in the recent years.

This is a critical time to raise our voices and be heard.  Important issues that affect us will be discussed in a public way next week…NOT after Christmas.

What else can you do?  Join the Handmade Toy Alliance, join the online community cpsia-central and become informed & involved.  Contact the media, discuss this in forums and in your own online communities.  It isn’t just small businesses that are at risk, it is the very nature of the toys & products our children & grandchildren will have access to in the future.

I really dislike alarmist statements, but it does seem that a revision of the new CPSIA regulation is essential otherwise there will be no more Unplugged Toystores, no more Etsy toy shops, no more lovely, unique, and creative toys.  Made in China plastic junk might well become the only choice here in the United States.


More information:

From the CPSC – Information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Text of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 4040)


Parents: Be Heard

By , February 19, 2008 8:34 am

If you would like an opportunity to let some big corporations know your concerns about their social and environmental impact, particularly with regards to your children, then head on over to Parents for Ethical Marketing (aka. Corporate Babysitter). Lisa has been contacted by a marketing agent who wants feedback from parents to pass along to her corporate clients. She has a few questions that she would like interested parents to answer.

Instead of all of us engaging in our usual collective grumble about unsafe toys, poor environmental practices, and the like, here is a chance to get productive and speak up!

My First Public Rant (Awww! How Cute!!)

By , December 12, 2007 10:43 pm

Does anyone else find it odd that there has been only one lead paint-related toy recall since Curious George on November 8?

Yesterday I was finally sorting through my children’s toy cars and trying to weed out those that appeared to be unbranded, cheap Dollar Store cars after I heard this on NPR. It occurred to me that after the recent flurry of lead paint recalls, now, during the busiest toy shopping season of the year, the recalls appear to have stopped. A coincidence? I think not. But then I tend to be cynical at times.

I know that the “branded” cars probably have as much chance of containing lead paint as the cheaper anonymous variety, after all, every single one of ours was made in China. It angered me that I felt compelled to sort through the cars. I felt helpless at the thought of all the cars that I chose not to take away, knowing that they quite likely could contain lead paint also.

Should I get rid of all my children’s cars? Should I eliminate all toys and give the children cardboard boxes and organic vegetables as toys instead? Do I need to buy a home lead test kit?

The non-profit Consumers Union tested five home kits and recommends three of them: Abotex Lead Inspector Kit , Homax Lead Check, and the Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit. I can’t imagine testing all our toys for the presence of lead paint! Have any of you done this? If so, what were your findings?

Another point to consider if you do want to give this a try at home: these kits only test the surface paint. You can check what is underneath, but to do that you must first chip away the surface paint. Apparently the lead paint is only harmful if it is ingested, so underlying paint theoretically is OK as long as your child does not bite through or scratch/wear off the surface paint.

Is it all OK then? No!! I, like most of you, of course don’t even want UNDERLYING lead paint in my house. But what a monumental task testing it all!! Every little bit and piece. Every accessory. Just because one item in a play set is OK, doesn’t mean they all are.

Think about it. If it would be hard for you to personally thoroughly test all your household toys, how is it for THE SINGLE INSPECTOR assigned to test the millions of toys that enter the US each year! (See also: Safety Agency Faces Scrutiny Amid Changes, New York Times, September 2, 2007). While you’re at it, check out the photo of the CPSC impact testing “lab” here.

And what does one do with suspicious or positively proven lead-based toys? Donate them so that poor children who’s toys all must come from thrift stores are the ones being poisoned? Throw them away to pollute landfills? Put them in a box in the attic?

I am also angry about phthalates. I learned in this NPR Fresh Air interview that phthalates (chemicals used to make plastic soft and pliable) are banned in Europe. European toys and products contain a non-toxic, yet equally as effective and reasonably costing substitute. Apparently author Mark Schapiro (the interviewee) claims in his book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power (which I have not read), that Chinese factories sometimes produce the EXACT SAME TOY with the phthalates for the US market and use the substitute chemical for the Europeans! According to Mr. Schapiro, toys containing phthalates that are confiscated and refused by European customs officials are returned to China and routinely then shipped to the US.

I don’t usually get too worked up over every little scandal. Of course if you feed a lab rat seventeen times its weight of any substance in a single day it will most likely not fare well. The media love making huge mountains out of “the latest study” and then we never hear about it again. Unfounded and exaggerated internet rumors abound and I do not wish my blog to contribute to their perpetuation. But this toy crisis strikes me as a real cause for concern.

Not that I wish to publicly assign myself a vintage, but I was born in the 1960’s and played with toys through the late ’60’s and ’70’s. Who knows what manner of unknown poisons I was exposed to and I have apparently survived relatively intact (so far anyway). But the difference is that now we have knowledge of these harmful substances and yet we continue to use them in our children’s toys. Babies, children, and young adults, whose brains are continuously developing well into the 20’s, are exposed to known toxins in their toys!

OK, I’d better stop here or this rant will turn really ugly. If you have the stomach for it, here are the links to the stories that set me off:

NPR: Testing Toys for Lead (December 6th)
NPR’s Fresh Air: Mark Shapiro – Exposing a Toxic US Policy (November 26th)


You have got to take a few minutes and watch this parody cartoon from Consumers Union that helps explain the toy problem:

Not in My Cart

(Via this link, if you wish, you can also send an email letter to your local Senators in support of S. 2045, The Consumer Product Safety Reform Act of 2007.)

If you are interested in putting links on your blog to the Consumers Union’s campaigns, including the promotion of toy safety, then you can click here to access their Blog Tool Kit.

And finally, here is a list of 12 Toy Shopping Tips for a Safer Holiday from Consumer Reports.

Curious George Contains Curious Paint

By , November 9, 2007 10:27 am

I am not happy that my blog seems to be turning into an extension of the CPSC Toy Recall page, but I do feel the need to spread the word to other parents who might be as uninformed as I usually am.

My bloggy friend Heather, aka Celtic Mommy, emailed me this morning about this new recall that she found (thank you!). If your child has a Curious George stuffed toy, then you had better check it out. Five different ones are recalled, not just the one in my photo.

Hopefully you won’t be having to tear a favorite lovey out of your sobbing child’s arms. How sad.

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