Endpoint: Toy Safety

Following up on IBO’s examination of US product safety systems (see IBO 11/15/07), there have been recent announcements from Wal-Mart, Toys R’Us, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and the EU concerning toy safety. These announcements express a clear aim to increase the amount of toy testing, with the TIA calling for an increase in the number of inspections of the facilities in which the toys are tested and produced. Furthermore, the EU, Wal-Mart and Toys R’Us have all released plans for lower limits of lead and phthalates in toys.

On January 19, Wal-Mart released the standards of its August 2007 “Toy Safety Net” program to toy suppliers, further updating its safety standards for the testing and material content of toys. In addition to requiring more rigorous testing for harmful materials, Wal-Mart has cut the maximum level of lead in the surface coating of toys it will sell from the US federal standard of 600 ppm to 90 ppm, and has set the maximum level of lead in “accessible components” of toys to 600 ppm. On February 15, Toys R’Us released its required reductions in lead content for its products, also cutting the maximum surface content of lead from 600 ppm to 90 ppm, and lowering the allowable lead content of substrate materials from 600 ppm to 250 ppm. To ensure that these requirements are properly implemented, Wal-Mart has hired Consumer Testing Laboratory to perform an average of 200 additional tests each day. Toys R’Us will use lead screening equipment at both the origin and random points of the supply chain. Lead can be tested using handheld XRF, atomic absorption spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry or inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy.

The minimum levels of phthalates, chemical compounds found in PVC, allowed in toys have also been lowered by Wal-Mart and Toys R’Us. Wal-Mart now requires the maximum content of certain phthalates to be restricted to 0.1%, while Toys R’Us has banned them from their products. Testing for phthalates is generally undertaken using GC/MS.

On February 16, the TIA released its Proposed Toy Safety Assurance Program, a three-pronged program overseen by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and representatives from government agencies and consumer organizations. The proposal focuses on manufacturer and designer hazard analysis or risk assessment documentation, process control assessment and production testing, all of which will be based on the ratings of factories. These ratings will come from process control audits of factories, including their product testing abilities. The ratings will be given on a 1-3 tier scale and will determine how often the factories must send their products to International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation-accredited laboratories for postproduction testing. Tier 1 facilities will test products annually at a minimum or at least every million units, not to exceed four times per year. Tier 2 factories will test products at a minimum semiannually or at least every 500,000 units, not to exceed four times per year. Finally, tier 3 factories will test products quarterly at a minimum or every 150,000 units, not to exceed six times per year. All factories will start at the tier 3 level and, after 12 months, will undergo an audit. The toy safety program currently awaits a month long period of public commentary, after which, a final draft and timetable of implementation will be put into place.

On January 25, the EU proposed new updates, drastically simplifying the 20-year-old Toys Safety Directive in order to improve the regulation of toy safety specifically pertaining to chemical substances. In addition to increasing manufacturers and importers attention to the design and manufacture of their toys, the proposal calls for a ban on all allergenic fragrances, a ban on toys attached to foods, the creation of testing standards for toys that do not currently have standards (for example, toys with magnets), as well as a reduction in the maximum allowed levels of lead in powder-like or pliable toy material and lead in liquid or stick toy material to 27 mg/kg and 6.8 mg/kg, respectively.

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