What’s the real meaning of Christmas?
Is it a celebration and a reflection on one’s own faith? Is it about getting together with loved ones and sharing a feeling of togetherness? Is it about embracing our sense of giving and sharing? Well, if you’re an eight-year-old the answer might be a little simpler; it is all about the toys. For many, the fondest memories of Christmas as children was shaking, weighing, studying, (smelling?), and inspecting our presents in an often fruitless attempt to know exactly what we were going to open before we opened it. Call it materialism, but was there ever a greater feeling than opening your big present to find out it was exactly what you always wanted?
Whether your child wants this year’s hottest action figure or they were hoping for the frilliest, pinkest doll ever made the one thing you don’t want Santa leaving under the tree for your children is this year’s biggest choking hazard. That’s why we have regulations on the safety of toys; it helps prevent those sorts of dangers.
Even though there are huge differences in how the European Union and the United States handles regulation, there is one thing you can count on – parents don’t like it when a toy puts their child in danger. When that happens, litigation tends to follow. That’s just one of the reasons it is imperative for toy producers to stay on top of their regulations and keep their toys safe.
Here are some examples of recalled toys from the European Union’s RAPEX site:
- A plastic trumpet was recalled because, “the mouthpiece of the trumpet can be easily detached and is a small part that could be swallowed by a child.”
- A toy mobile phone was recalled because, “The product poses a risk of damage to hearing because the sound level is too high (91.1dB).”
- A purple horse and a white horse (that happened to be counterfeit) was recalled because, “The product poses a chemical risk because the lilac horse contains 26.9% by weight of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and the white horse contains 24.5% by weight of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and 1.32% by weight of dibutyl phthalate (DBP).”
- A toy caterpillar was recalled because, “The product poses a risk of choking because it contains small parts (the luminous balls inside the caterpillar) that are extremely easy to access.”
- Some (possibly counterfeit) Winnie-the-Pooh squeeze toys hit the double-whammy when they weren’t allowed to be imported by authorities because of both chemical and choking hazards, “The product poses a chemical risk as it contains up to 27% by weight of bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), up to 0, 7% by weight of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and up to 370mg/kg of phenol. It poses a risk of choking due to the presence of small parts (the whistle).” How could you, Eeyore?
- And finally we have the bubble shooter gun that had its import rejected by customs because, “The product poses a microbiological risk because the liquid contains 300.000 CFU/g of aerobic mesophilic bacteria which exceeds the limit values. There is clear risk of contracting infections given that when this product is used by children it will come into contact with their mouths, hands and eyes and may be inhaled.” In other words, it was covered in disease. Yuck!
This list isn’t made to scare parents from buying toys. The authorities generally seem to do a pretty good job of keeping dangerous toys away from children. If these examples get anyone’s attention it should be the toy producers who are putting their entire company at risk by not properly preparing to get their toys safe enough for the market. Litigation is not cheap. Neither are fines, recalls, or PR campaigns designed to restore your company’s brand after you’ve been caught selling unsafe products.Alcuin Dean is a specialist in the Toy Safety Directive
and a Director of Phoenix Technology Group’s UK Subsidiary