Are your kids’ toys really safe?

What you need to know about the state of toy safety today

When you buy cereal for your family, you can read the label to find out what’s inside; that’s the law. But if toys contain unwanted ingredients — like lead — you might not be able to tell by looking at the packaging.

Scary? Sure. Just four years ago, literally millions of toys were recalled when their dangerous secret ingredients came to light. Unacceptable levels of lead, which can kill a child if ingested, were found in painted Thomas the Tank Engine figures, and plastic toys from Fisher-Price and Mattel. These weren’t cheap dollar-store trinkets, but well-known, respected brands. Yet, at the time, Health Canada didn’t have the right to force dangerous toys or other children’s products off store shelves. The recalls that happened were voluntary, which made us wonder: Are other dangerous toys still being sold because the manufacturers refused to take responsibility for public safety?

So that year, Today’s Parent began sending all of our recommended infant, toddler and preschool toys for independent lead testing, to make sure we, and you, felt good about our Top Toys.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since then. In the wake of 2007’s scandal, toy manufacturers and distributors have stepped up, placing inspectors in their offshore factories to enforce safety standards. “A lot more companies have become more involved with their manufacturers,” says Dianne Mattice, co-owner of The Rocking Horse, an independent toy store in Owen Sound, Ont., that’s been in business 34 years. She says toy companies are now routinely safety-testing their products, and providing the documentation to retailers like her. What’s more, this year Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act became law, giving government the ability to pull unsafe toys from stores.

What does that mean for this year’s Top Toys? Like Mattice, and the other toy retailers we spoke to, we feel confident that an effective safety watchdog is finally in place — so we’ve decided it’s no longer necessary to have our picks tested for lead. And we’re happy that Canadian playrooms have become a safer place for all our children.

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