Back in 2007, over 20,000,000 toys were recalled in this country–just in that year alone. The good news? In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act was enacted, which raised the bar on toy safety. Since then, in accordance with this law, toys in the U.S. must now be tested by an accredited third-party certified organization such as NSF International in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But what does third-party testing involve? I asked Dave Parzen, NSF’s business unit manager for Consumer Product Safety for some insight, which can be helpful to keep in mind as you’re toy shopping. Here’s the inside on the toy-testing process:
“Before a toy can be sold in the U.S., manufacturers will send their toys and the packaging to us. We’ll review the packaging and the age rating a manufacturer puts on a toy, and we’ll test toys to the applicable standard to make sure they’re safe to be sold,” Parzen says.
Toys are tested for lead and phthalates (a compound in plastic) to make sure they’re at or below permissible levels. NSF also puts toys through the paces by dropping, twisting, and pulling them, and throwing them down the stairs, just like a child might. They also test toys for sound, to make sure toys won’t damage ears, and for hazardous magnets, electrical hazards, and dangerous projectiles. The process takes five to seven business days. About 10 percent of all toys that NSF tests don’t pass inspection. Of the toys that make it, you’ll never know other than they’re on store shelves. You won’t see any certification mark. Accreditation by NSF or any other third-party certifier is blind to the consumer.
Bottomline: Toys sold in the U.S. since 2007 are safer because they’re third-party tested. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. When you’re toy shopping, be sure to match a toy’s age grading with your child’s age. And later, when your child is playing with a toy, keep an eye on him or her. “Toys can be misused in ways that we can’t predict,” Parzen says, which can make any “safe” toy dangerous.