President’s Letter - November 2009

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Turning the Corner on Toy Safety Concerns?

I was privileged to accompany CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum on a U.S. government and stakeholder delegation to the 3rd Biennial Consumer Product Safety Summit with the Chinese safety authority (AQSIQ) in Beijing in late October. 

Toy safety was not the focus in Beijing, as it was at the 2007 Summit held in Washington, DC.  The focus of the 2009 Summit was ATV (all terrain vehicles) safety and the larger theme of implementing best practices in design and manufacturing.  In her remarks at the press conference at the conclusion of the Summit, Chairman Tenenbaum referred to toy safety only briefly, saying:

“Our work with the Chinese government and Chinese manufacturers also is bearing fruit in the area of toy safety.  In fiscal year 2008 there were more than 80 toy recalls, with nearly half of those recalls related to lead violations.  I am pleased to report that in fiscal year 2009, there were about 40 toy recalls, with only 15 lead violations.  Our goal is to have no toy recalls and no lead paint violations, but we are certainly moving in the right direction.”

So we may be turning a corner and will see a decrease in the focus of lawmakers and the media on toy safety.  If this is true, it will be because the toy industry has earned renewed confidence in the safety of our products through intense testing and attention to meeting the standards.  But the price for maintaining this renewed confidence will be continued, systematic assurances of conformance with the standards. 

The Beijing Summit between the U.S. and China took cooperative efforts between our two governments to a new level by pursuing improvements in supply and distribution chains to enhance product safety.  Chairman Tenenbaum said:

The best way to protect families is to build safety into products during design and manufacturing.  If you can do that here in China, before they reach ports or stores shelves in the United States, we will have accomplished a great deal. **** We now expect companies to implement proven best practices, such as factoring misuse into design, strict controls on components and other inputs, and enough sampling and testing to ensure that all of the product coming off the line is safe for consumers. **** CPSC and AQSIQ will push companies to build safety into the product at every stage of the production and the distribution chain. Suppliers and importers need to understand that this is now our expectation.

The industry-wide Toy Safety Certification Program (TSCP) launched October 1, provides a low-cost and convenient mechanism for toy companies to assure the Agency that they are meeting these expectations.  TSCP has become a safety centerpiece for the toy industry.  It provides independent verification that products have been designed, manufactured and tested to assure they meet the standards.  Companies can log on to learn how to use the program at www.toycertification.org

“Eternal Vigilance”

It is not too much of a reach to say that the assertion attributed to Thomas Jefferson that “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” applies to the toy industry today:

  • An event was held at the MI State Capitol to test for “toxic chemicals” in Halloween costumes and toys.  
  • In Colorado, notice was received about a draft bill that would ban many classes of chemicals in children’s products and cosmetics. 
  • In New York there is pending BPA legislation with the specific inclusion of toys in the scope of the bill.
  • In Wisconsin, legislation was signed by the Governor which requires manufacturers of certain electronic devices to be responsible for collection and recycling.

Though our primary focus continues to be at the federal and state level, we are seeing pending legislation extend all the way to the county level.

TIA has weighed in on behalf of the toy industry on all these issues and more.  Without a continuous presence in state capitols and Washington, DC, the toy industry is vulnerable to additional mischievous legislative proposals claiming to protect children.  Persistent effort to educate legislators and regulators about safety issues is the best and least cost insurance against unwarranted measures becoming law. 

New TIA Members in 2009

I am very pleased to report that we have gained 96 new TIA members during 2009.  75 of the new members are toy companies and 21 are associate members.  We heartily welcome these new companies and organizations into TIA.  Their support, added to the steadfast support of all our existing members, provides the resources we need to continue to effectively represent the industry. 

That’s it for now.  Best wishes for a great holiday season for toys!

Carter