After VPIRG released our 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report and data from Vermont’s Toxic Free Families Act the responses from manufacturers and the toy industry were a bit puzzling. Instead of addressing known and possible carcinogens contained in their products, or ways to ensure parents know when toys are recalled, they wanted to make it clear that products like Elf on the Shelf, children’s jewelry, and pacifier clips are not toys. These products might not fall under the statutory definition of toys, but it is safe to say that most children, and adults, could not tell you the difference.
Despite the fact that CCA and B LLC reported that their Elf on the Shelf product contained a possible human carcinogen, and their Scout Elves at Play Playset contained a known human carcinogen, the company issued a statement to NBC 5 saying “We strive as a company to ensure that our products are safe for children even when the products are not categorized as toys. The Elf on the Shelf, Scout Elves at Play and Claus Couture Collection brands are labeled ‘for ornamental use only’ but are nonetheless tested for toy safety out of an abundance of caution and in pursuit of the highest-possible safety standards. They are not for use by children.”
Similarly, the Toy Industry Association issued a statement saying “many of the items previously recalled as a result of ongoing regulatory vigilance and named by the group are juvenile products and NOT toys (e.g. hoverboards, children’s jewelry, pacifier clips, etc.)”.
Call them what you want, but when Vermonters log on to do their holiday shopping they should know if the products that their kids are likely to handle, mouth and play with, are dangerous and contain known toxic chemicals. In the future we hope that the industry will spend some more time addressing how to eliminate toxic chemicals from these products, and how to improve the effectiveness of recalls rather than arguing over how we define these products.
If you would like to read our full reporting on toy safety click here.