Area retailers taking steps to ensure toys safe for kids

Friday, November 30, 2007
Kristen Burton, Greencastle, strolled the toy aisle at Wal-Mart inspecting potential gifts for her 8-year-old twin sons. Burton says that lead exposure is her biggest safety concern. "I check the web sites and look for the most current recalls, but I'm not one of those mothers that has every toy tested."

Media reports of toy safety recalls have been widespread and frequent, from dolls slathered in lead paint to Aquadots coated in the date rape drug GHB.

As consumers rush to pick up the hottest new toys this holiday season, local toy retailers and public health officials want families to ensure a safe holiday season for area children.

"The safety of our children is very important to us," said Leslie Hanson, co-owner of Bright Futures in downtown Greencastle.

A sign, conspicuously placed next to the register at the specialty toy store, informs customers that Bright Futures' staff checks the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website daily, to ensure no toys on their shelves are also on the recall list. In fact, the store has never seen one of its products appear on a recall list.

According to Hansen, being a small retailer that deals with only with small mom and pop manufacturers makes it easier for Bright Futures to stay on top of toy recalls. "We keep files from all of our manufacturers and I can talk directly to the owners if I have questions," she said. "I don't have to deal with a massive bureaucracy."

Wal-Mart, the county's largest toy retailer is also taking steps to ensure that the products it sells are safe for children.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Jami Arms, says that in the height of this years recalls, the retailer stepped up its efforts to pull unsafe toys from their shelves.

"While safety and testing has been an on-going process for us," said Arms. "In August we launched a Toy Safety Net Program to include additional testing of toy products and more work with industry and government leaders on safety standards."

In addition to testing an additional 12,000 toys since the new program launched, the company also touts a communication system that will prevent a recalled toy from ever being sold in a Wal-Mart store.

"When a recall is issued, Wal-Mart has a proven system of communicating to all stores immediately to remove product quickly from shelves, as well as utilizing its technology to place a block on the sale of an item at every register in every store."

Putnam County Public Health officials have kept a close eye on food and toy recalls, and encourage consumers to stay educated, but also keep the risk in perspective.

Doug Ehmen, Putnam County Public Health Coordinator and Environmental Health Specialist, says that all the attention may lead some to believe that these safety problems are new to the toy market.

"You can't tell me that this is all of a sudden a new problem," said Ehmen, "that all of a sudden toys from China have lead in the paint."

Though County Health official encourage all parents to check recall lists published by the Consumer Safety Commission, according to Ehmen, contamination doesn't usually come from toys in the house, but from the house itself.

"The biggest risk for led exposure is still lead based paint in homes," said Ehmen, who does lead level testing for families throughout the county.

According to the public health official, 34 percent of Putnam County home were built before 1960, and all paint prior to that year has high levels of lead.

County Health Officer Dr. Robert Heavin says that in his experience, playing with toys without proper supervision poses more danger than possible exposure to lead or other chemicals.

"Toys are for kids, but they should be supervised," said self professed "stick and ball man," Heavin. "Parents, play with your kids."

For more information about recalled toys and general toy safety visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission at or contact the Putnam County Health Department.

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