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December 2007

Making Sure Toys Are Safe

Television, print, and radio media have recently been filled with stories about unsafe toys from China and how little the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is doing to check imported toys. Concerns include unsafe levels of lead, sharp and jagged points, potentially harmful noise levels, small parts that could break off and choke a child, and other worries. According to the CPSC, 13 children died last year from unsafe toys and more than 140,000 children were treated in emergency rooms after toy-related incidents.

With most of our toys now coming from China, what should you look for? First, check the toy’s label. The CPSC requires the manufacturer to list the appropriate age and warnings if the toy presents a certain hazard to a specific age group. Second, see if the toy has small parts that could come off. This is particularly important if the intended toy recipient is aged three or younger. Next, try the toy to see how loud it is. If it is irritating to you, it probably is too loud. I once tested fire engines and found many sirens exceeded federal noise standards. The danger here is that children hold toys close to them and the loud siren could lead to an eventual hearing loss. Fourth, avoid toys with sharp edges or points no matter what the age of the child. I remember only too well the lawn dart in my foot back in grade school.

This list is only a beginning. For additional toy safety tips, check out the CPSC’s “Toy Safety” website at: www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/grand/toy/toysafe.html.

Where can you find information about specific toys you might want to buy for your children or grandchildren? The Canadian Toy-Testing Council is a non-profit organization created in 1952 to test toys year around for safety. The council’s website is at: http://www.toy-testing.org/ and it rates toys using a three-star system. One star means the tested toy has serious flaws. Two stars mean that the toy has very good play value but may present minor problems related to design, function, or durability. Three stars mean the toy is distinguished by excellence in design, function, durability, and play value. Finally, a tested toy receiving no stars has displayed major deficiencies in function, play value, or durability and the council therefore does not recommended its purchase.
The council arranges its test results by listing either the toy’s name or the appropriate age recommendations for specific toys. This information is available on the council’s website at: www.toy-testing.org/CTTCmm.htm.

If you are buying toys second hand, you will also want to check out the items you might want to buy on the federal government’s recall website, www.recalls.gov. This site provides information on toys recalled by the CPSC, as well information on general consumer items recalled by other federal agencies. 

Don’t Forget To Renew on the Do Not Call List

Several electric co-op directors asked me to post a reminder for their members. Before the year ends, you should remember to sign up once again for the state and federal “Do Not Call” telemarketing lists. The state list expires every two years and the federal list expires every five years. For the state list, call toll-free 1-866-966-2255 or go to: https://nocall.wisconsin.gov/web/home.asp. For the federal list, go to: https://www.donotcall.gov/.

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