Toys Inspection Service
A great deal of research has gone into matching toys with their appropriate age group. As designated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are ten specific age groups, starting at “Birth Through 3 Months” and covering up to “9 Through 12 Years”. Age group classifications are based in part on childhood psychology, developing motor skills and anatomy.
In particular, most toy markets around the world have imposed a specific ban on all “small parts” for use on toys meant for children under 3 years of age to prevent choking hazards, and U.S. 16 CFR 1501 specifications for identifying small parts are emulated around the world.
There have been several recent recalls on products that include tiny, yet intensely powerful magnets made from a rare earth metal called Neodymium, after a number of reported swallowing instances. Because of their strength, these magnets can pinch tissue and bore holes in the stomach or intestines if more than one is swallowed, and they can only be removed through surgery.
Standard EN 71-1 requires warning labels on all toy products containing swallowable magnets. The label must describe the danger and deem the product unsuitable for children under 8 years of age.
Toy Substance Makeup
Children don’t touch toys lightly. The average level of prolonged bodily contact is enough for any cheap, dangerous substances that a toy might contain to absorb into the child’s body and potentially cause hazardous, long-term health effects. For example, most national markets, including the U.S., Canada and the European Union, are fast phasing out phthalates out of toys due to their toxicological properties.
However, recent studies are still finding phthalates in a number of toys sold in “phthalate-free” markets like the United States. Inaccurate reporting and declaration of these products can still be too common for anyone to take for granted any statements of conformance without proper lab verification.
Sharp Points and Edges
Here again, as detailed in 16 CFR 1500.48, age appropriateness is given specific consideration. Standard 16 CFR 1500.48 measures “technical requirements for determining a sharp point in toys and other articles intended for use by children under 8 years of age.”
A toy’s failure to hold up to wear and tear during play speaks to the low quality of materials and/or production methods. Products that crack easily can create sharp edges or small parts; while cheap dyes may lose their color fastness after prolonged handling or machine washing.
Proper testing standards, such as EN 71-1&3, specifically addresses the physical, mechanical and chemical properties of children’s products through dozens of valid quality tests.
While it is easy to see how products like toy weapons and certain electronic devices would need close monitoring in order to protect a 12-year-old’s hearing, less obvious items such as rattles and squeeze toys are now becoming recognized as potentially harmful to an infant’s ears. EN 71-1 was revised in 2013 to include safe sound level testing on toy products for every age group.
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