An organization called “Clean & Healthy New York” has been making news recently with its report “Toxic Toys in Albany County.” The report purports to have tested toys in that part of New York State and to have found high levels of dangerous chemicals in toys. What I found to be ironic is that this report would fail minimal toy industry and governmental standards for transparency and accuracy.
I have been following the NGO unsafe toys lists for several years now and what I find consistently is a tendency to tag all children’s products as toys; to utilize testing practices with questionable equipment used by untrained or poorly trained analysts and to overstate their findings through the use of inaccurate and dramatic headlines. The result, no matter how well meaning, is that they shoot safety advocacy in the foot by unnecessarily scaring parents with exaggerated claims and promoting draconian laws that damage businesses.
Toys fall under different safety standards than other products. Not only that, toys for younger children have different testing standard than those for older children. Therefore, one cannot include items from differing product categories together as the standards differ.
The “Toxic Toys in Albany County” failed this reporting standard by implying in its title that all the products were toys. In reality, the report cited twelve "toys" as being dangerous. Tellingly, only four of the items in question are actually toys. The following non-toy products were tagged as toys by the report:
1 Charm bracelet (jewelry)
1 Necklace (jewelry)
1 Hairclip, jewelry, bracelet set (jewelry)
1 Beaded sparkle charm jewelry (jewelry)
1 “16 piece accessory set” (party)
2 fashion hair clips (hair accessories)
1 Luggage tag (travel)
That means that of the 12 “toys”, 4 were actually jewelry items, 2 were hair accessories, 1 a travel accessory and 1 a party item. This of course demands the question, why did the “Toxic Toys in Albany County” report choose to list these products as toys when they could have listed them as children’s products, jewelry, hair accessories, etc.? What makes this question even more important is that the report openly states that they “…tested a variety of toys, accessories, novelty products and apparel (underlining is mine)."
The difference in what you call these items is not just one of semantics:
- Toys come under different testing regulations than “accessories, novelty products and apparel”.
- The toy industry and its members have no knowledge of or control over those who make these products.
- Tarring one industry with another’s alleged problems is misleading and does harm to an entire category of products.
“Toxic Toys in Albany County” should have minimally changed the title of its report to “Toxic Children’s Products in Albany County” to accurately reflect its findings.