How to get smart about toy recalls

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Parents always worry when they hear about a toy being recalled for safety reasons. Toy expert Chris Byrne explains how to find out about toy recalls and what to do if you have one of the recalled toys in your home.

How to get smart about toy recalls
  • Proactively monitor the safety of your kid's toys. Watchwords are "Check and Inspect" -- check the website of the Consumer Product Safety Council (CPSC.gov) on a regular basis for product recalls.
  • In addition to lead paint, products are recalled for errors in product design and production. Frequently, these errors don't show up until after the toy has been introduced, and may be the result of unintended use or poor monitoring and testing procedures. Inspect toys for broken parts, loose pieces, or paint chipping.
  • Don’t throw way a defective toy. You are (usually) entitled to receive something of equal, or greater value when a product is recalled. You may be asked to return it to the retailer or mail it back directly to the manufacturer. If you throw it away, you lose out on getting that compensation.
  • Beware of ignoring a recall, even if it seems unimportant. Once a manufacturer has recalled a product, they have fulfilled their obligations. If you do nothing now, but subsequently have a problem, you may have no recourse.
  • You are smart to wonder about used or antique toys in your household. Depending on the age of the item, it may have "fallen through the cracks" of the recall system. You can check the website of the Consumer Product Safety Council (CPSC.gov), but it may not be on that website even if it was recalled at some time in the past.
  • Remember that kids under three will put EVERYthing into their mouths. Don't give them toys that have obvious defects or parts that could become easily dislodged and would pose a choking hazard.
  • Toys made in the U.S. aren’t necessarily safer than toys made abroad. Recalls are not a geographic problem, but rather one related to monitoring and testing system problems in toy companies. Recalls also reflect market share -- years ago, when more toys were made in the United States, more of the recalls were for these toys. Now that more toys are made overseas, we are seeing more recalls of foreign-manufactured toys.
Transcript

RON: I'm Ron Corning for howdini.com. If you have kids you have to be mindful of toy recalls due to toxic products and design flaws. So is there a danger lurking in your child's playroom? It's certainly a scary question, and Chris Byrne is here with some answers. He is editor-at-large for Toys and Family Entertainment as well as Royalties, and a contributing editor of Toy Wishes. Chris, thank you for being here to talk about this.

CHRIS: Thank you.

RON: We've heard most often about toy recalls related to lead paint. Does it go beyond that in some cases?

CHRIS: Well, certainly. And there are recalls every year and tons of them. Not only lead paint or other substances that shouldn't be in the toys, but design flaws. And design flaws are generally errors in product production that aren't found out until after the toy has been in the marketplace, and it may have been used in a way that it wasn't intended. Pieces can come loose; pieces can break off and pose a choking hazard. So a parent, then, is given the information they need to return the toy to where they bought it.

RON: Is it to any retailer, and do they get their money back?

CHRIS: Well usually the best place to go is the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site, cpsc.gov. Check that out. It will list the toys, and then most of the manufacturers will tell you exactly what to do to return the toy. They will get compensation. Either you take it back to the retailer or mail it in; it really depends on the individual recall. And it's up to the parent to really decide if they want to take the recall notice seriously and return the toy.

RON: We should tell people they assume some level of risk if they keep the toy.

CHRIS: Well, absolutely. Once the toy has been recalled, the manufacturer has fulfilled their obligation to the public. So it really does behoove the parents to check the toys on a regular basis just for wear and tear and things like that; and if there is a recall, follow those instructions to the letter.

RON: I was going to say, for the sake of testing the toy and follow-up, a parent should return it and not just throw it away.

CHRIS: Absolutely, because a) that's the smart thing to do; but b) they are going to give you something for your trouble for returning it. Something usually of equal or greater value. Here's something that I've actually covered in the past: This idea of toys being sold at second-hand stores, picking up stuff at thrift stores.

RON: What if any of those products at one time or another have been recalled, and those toys have fallen through the system and they're available in other places?

CHRIS: Well, it's going to be really hard to know, and what we always say to parents in that kind of situation is certainly check online to see if there might be something in archives. But use common sense when it comes to toys. Don't give toys that will go in the mouth to children under 3, cause they are going to put everything in their mouth. Check toys for wear and tear. If the toy is broken or the paint is chipping off, just take it away. You don't know, it's probably safe. But you want to make sure the kids aren't using broken toys or toys vulnerable to breakage.

RON: So a lot of these toys have come notably from China, although toys are manufactured all over the world, even manufactured in the USA. Does that label tell the whole story — if it says “Made in the USA” are you safer?

CHRIS: No, not necessarily. It really depends on the systems that have been used. Fifteen years ago or so, when there were more toys made in the U.S., more toys were recalled in the U.S. It's not a geographic problem, it really is a systems problem within the toy companies, and the monitoring that has to go on and the testing that has to go on really doesn't depend on geography. So you yourself should look for small parts that could break off, choking hazard, chipped paint, or something else.

RON: Right. Don't go by that manufacturer label alone and go to cpsc.gov. Use that as your guide.

CHRIS: Exactly.

RON: All right, Chris. Thank you. Chris Byrne is editor-at-large for Toys and Family Entertainment as well as Royalties, and contributing editor of Toy Wishes; and I'm Ron Corning for howdini.com.

meet theexpert
  • Chris Byrne

    Chris Byrne Editor-At-Large, Toys & Family Entertainment Chris Byrne, “The Toy Guy,” is the editor-at-large for Toys & Family Entertainment and Royaltie$ and a contributing editor for Toy Wishes. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for many different trade magazines, including Toy & Hobby World. more about this expert »

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