August 16, 2007

toy origins

I've heard that 80% of all toys are made in China. As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to start calling some of my favorite toy companies to learn about their manufacturing process and safety. I think there are a few considerations when finding toys. They need to be safely made (without lead is a good thing).

We also should consider the life span of the toy and what will become of it when our children tire of them. I always think of the pile of plastic floating in the Pacific, larger than the state of Texas. Is "safe" plastic from Europe better than wooden toys from China? Maybe everyone has to decide the answer for themselves. Consider both the safety for your children and also the environment.

Here is some information from the companies I called:

Melissa and Doug
Made in China
Melissa and Doug employees test during process in China and then test again in independent labs once product is delivered to the US. Consumers should feel confident and comfortable with Melissa and Doug products. No lead, no formaldehyde, no toxins. Not involved with recent problems in China at all.

Made in China
Statement to come from CEO regarding safety processes.
update: K'NEX Brands, sole distributor of BRIO toy products in the United States and Canada, just sent this statement:

Brio would like to point out that all Brio products, including the wooden railways systems and toys, are very safe to play with. Brio uses a lacquer paint, free of dangerous amounts of toxic materials, including lead. This lacquer paint has been thoroughly tested for toxins in independent laboratories at ITS and SGS.

After a competitor’s first product recall a few months ago, Brio decided to triple check on the procedures that are in place, to make sure that everything is performed according to the already set standards. Even further testing was carried out, on all the paint used, for all our products and sent for analysis. None of the tests showed any abnormalities.

Safety is always one of our main priorities. Creating products that are safe enough for young children involves extensive research and testing.

All Brio products conform to heavy metal (toxicology) testing as under mandate by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) for US and Canada. They meet all industry standards within EN part 3.

Every single part of a product that Brio makes, are specifically tested in a spectrometer for spectroscopic analysis. This is to identify all the chemicals and content of the materials used.

Made in Thailand, in their factory in the Trang province.
PlanToys are created using advanced technology to ensure they are safe and non-toxic. They are "strongly committed to manufacturing fine-quality and safe educational toys under environment-friendly conditions. The timber we use is plantation rubberwood (Hevea Brasiliensis), which is recovered from old rubber trees after they no longer generate latex and are due for burning. We process and kiln-dry the timber, in a chemical-free environment; no wood preservatives are used whatsoever. The paint which we use to varnish Plan Toys products is non-toxic water-based paint which has been scientifically tested by independent accredited laboratories and found to be safe for children and non-polluting in natural water sources. We use natural latex glue to do the joining work on our toys. In certain cases, we need to use plywood in our production. Special care has been taken to ascertain that our plywood complies with E1 standards, thus ensuring emissions of urea formaldehyde at levels below those acceptable to the World Health Organization (WHO). We do not use PVC in our packaging. All cardboard cartons used in our packaging can be fully recycled."
In addition, PlanToys has high ratings for ethical labor standards.

Made in Denmark, Mexico, Hungary, Czech Republic and some electronics from China
Made with ABS plastic.
"This ABS material has been specially developed for our company and is not available to others. This has important consequences: for example, no other manufacturer is able to make products with the same unique clutch power, shine properties and colour stability as LEGO Group products possess. The company's laboratories continuously test our plastics to the extreme in order to improve resistance, for example, to bite marks and scratching."

Made in Germany
Uses ABS plastic. No recalls since 1982.
"Playmobil toy production is based in Europe, with the company headquarters just 15 miles away from the major production site in the heart of Germany. This allows Playmobil to track and monitor the quality of the toys at fully owned manufacturing sites. Horst Brandst├Ątter, the owner of Playmobil, states that: “I manufacture Playmobil in Europe, because I trust my team of employees who understand the brand and are experienced in the manufacturing process in order to reach supreme quality with the best technology and equipment I can provide.” Only a few parts, less than 1 percent of the complete range of toys, are sourced from high-quality, long-term Chinese production partners. Playmobil sources these components because of the substantial amount of hand labor they require. We hold these manufacturers to the same high standards as we do with our European counterparts. Playmobil is committed to investing into the highest quality resources that meet all of our high safety standards."

If you decide to call other toy companies that you like, please share the info in the comments below.


Gift of Green said...

Awesome investigative reporting ;) Thanks for doing all the legwork!

Luke Davis Pedersen said...

thank you for doing all this research. it is astonishing how many toys are made in china. are there any actually manufactured in the good old USA?

Anonymous said...

recently called sassy. only asked about PVC. was told that none of their toys were made w/ PVC. we didn't discuss other phalates or chemicals. also didn't ask where their toys were made. i've read online that sassy gets "high marks," though i'm not sure what specific materials those mark-givers considered.

Mindful Momma said...

Great work! Just wanted you to know that I referenced this post in my post about toys on my Mindful Momma blog.

Anonymous said...

recently called sassy re wood toy series. They stated that all of their toys undergo 3 tests prior to hitting the shelve (china, independent labs, and here in the states). Also in 25 years have only had 2 recalls one for googly eyes that were stitched on and one because a toy was a potential choking hazard. My question is about the wood toys, are they made from sustainable goods?

mom go green said...

as far as sustainable wood, i think you have to ask each company for their sources. plan toys is unique because they used wood which is recovered from old rubber trees. i love their toys!

Anonymous said...

So for Playmobil, did they say whether or not they use PVC in any of their toys? I read that there were one of the companies that had planned to phase it out a few years ago, but I don't know if they've completed the process and now have all PVC-free toys.

Erin said...

The problem is not just about the safety of toys coming from China for our kids. It's about the appalling pay and conditions for the workers in China's toy factories. Having just started buying toys again (for my grandchild) I want to know more about this, but I get the impression already there is a big cover-up going on. I've just read 'The Real Toy Story' by Eric Clark and would highly recommend it as a starting point to understanding the workings of the massive toy industry. The global industry is worth 30 billion dollars a year and
80% of toys are made in China! Anyone buying toys for children has a responsibility to address these issues. On a simple level lets reduce the number of toys we buy, and repair and share around what we already have to curb the mountain of plastic junk we are creating.

Anonymous said...

So many of the toy safety issues are centered around a commitment to safety and quality, regardless of where the toys are made. I buy only natural toys or wooden toys for kids made by companies who consistently attend to the safety and quality of their products. I've found specialty brands like Kathe Kruse and Plan Toys to be among the best.