The Other Toy Story: Toy Industry Lobbies Against Laws to Make Toys Safer

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Parents, Advocates Leaflet Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair

(New York City)  Outraged by the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) consistent opposition to laws to remove toxic chemicals from toys, parents, students, and health advocates distributed information exposing the sharp contrast between TIA’s professed commitment to toy safety and its lobbying against proposed laws to protect children. The coalition centered their educational activity on the attendees of the annual Toy Fair held in the Javits Center.

The Toy Industry Association has lobbied against legislation in numerous states that would identify toxic chemicals, prioritize those that are likely to affect children’s health, and require children’s product manufacturers to report their use of the most hazardous chemicals.  These laws would make toys safer, while giving parents, guardians and caregivers the information they need in order to make healthier choices.  In New York, TIA reported taking positions on 33 Assembly bills in 2011. Twenty of these bills addressed environmental health.

“As a mom and an author on green living, the Toy Industry Association’s actions are unconscionable,” said Alexandra Zissu, whose books include The Conscious Kitchen, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, and Planet Home, which she co-authored with Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder of Seventh Generation.  “These are toys we’re talking about here. Of all the products ever made, they should be unquestionably healthy and safe.  Why is the Toy Industry more closely aligned with chemical makers than with parents and children?”

Displaying hand-made signs and a banner that read “TIA: Don’t Toy with Our Children’s Health,” the advocates made clear their demand for safer, healthier toys.  TIA’s published statements that “safety is our top priority,” and that they “share parents’ concern about children’s potential exposure to toxic chemicals,” contrasted sharply with their actions at statehouses around the country, advocates said.

“There’s trouble in Toyland and toy makers need to leave the world of make believe and focus on getting toxic chemicals out of children’s toys,” said Megan Ahearn, Public Health Advocate with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), which has put out toy safety reports each holiday season for two decades.  “Parents are shopping in the dark when they hit the toy aisle. They need to know that their kids’ toys are toxic-free and otherwise safe to play with.”

“The Toy Industry Association should stop toying around with our children’s health, and support state and federal efforts to protect children from toxic chemicals in children’s products,” said Mike Schade, Campaign Coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ).

“Most parents believe that products would not be allowed on store shelves if they weren’t safe, but in fact there are no rules requiring testing of many harmful chemicals found in toys. The Toy Industry should join parents, consumers and health advocates in calling for standards to keep harmful chemicals out of their products,” said Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for the Center for Environmental Health.

“Businesses have already shown that you can create all sorts of products including toy without toxic chemicals,” said David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, a partnership representing over 100,000 businesses throughout the U.S. “We encourage all toy makers to commit to innovate and produce safe and healthy toys.”

In a recent poll of small businesses, over 80% strongly agreed that it is important to ensure that the products companies buy and sell are safe and healthy. (http://www.asbcouncil.org/.poll_regulations.html)

“If the Toy Industry focused on ensuring all TIA members were making their products without toxic chemicals, then none of them would be affected by the legislation they oppose,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, Deputy Director for Clean and Healthy New York. “As a mother myself, I find it reprehensible for toy makers to care more about corporate profits than the health of their supposed customers – children.”