“I'm a mom myself, I have three young kids so I understand the concerns. It's really important to know what's been recalled and make sure those products are not in your home,” says Joan Lawrence who may know more than any mother in United States about toy safety.
Lawrence is the Vice President for Standards and Regulatory Affairs for the Toy Industry Association and she lives in Brighton.
“We develop standards for the U.S. and we educated the industry and consumers about what the standards are so they can apply.”
Since the first toy recall this summer, Joan's spent countless hours working to change toy industry standards. While there are stringent standards in place for toy manufacturing, Lawrence says the recent recalls represent a gap which occurred by certain toy manufacturers.
“We've never seen anything like this and that's why we were so motivated to find a fix because it meant that a gap in our otherwise strong system had occurred and we needed to fix it and do it fast.”
While some advocate groups are advising parents not to buy from China this season, Lawrence says China is not the problem. In fact, Lawrence says the lead and other safety hazards occurred when U.S. toy companies neglected to verify with their manufacturers in China as to the safety of the materials being used. As a result, lead-contaminated and other hazardous toys made their way into the United States.
“This is not really about China, anything sold in the U.S. has to comply with our U.S. standards. So, I don't really think it's helpful to say 'don't buy from China, because that's not the issue'.”
Most toys available for sale in the U.S. are made in China. Lawrence offers the following advice to parents:
- Pick up the toys, look at them carefully, examine their construction and determine whether they will stand up under rough child play
- Read and follow all warning labels on toys
- Choose toys which are both age-appropriate but appropriate for your child’s activity level
- Supervise your child’s play and demonstrate how to safely and properly play with the toy.
The Toy Industry Association is also currently doing a massive re-test on all toys available this holiday season.
“We are pulling products from store shelves, we are pulling it from warehouses, anything from the supply chain, anything meant for this holiday is being sampled and retested,” says Lawrence.
The industry released a new website in September for parents which not only gives advice about buying toys, it gives up-to-date recall information. The site: www.toyinfo.org also contains a hotline: 1-888-884-TOYS. The Industry is also establishing new industry standards for toy testing and safe toy manufacturing.
“We have asked Congress to make toy testing mandatory and ANSY, will come up with testing protocols,” says Lawrence.