Summer 2008
Profit from Play By Heather Johnson Durocher

Lead, BPA: What’s Next?

Last year’s recalls of toys found to contain dangerous levels of lead left retailer Andy Cannon with a sense of relief. The owner of Discovery Depot, a specialty toy store in Cookeville, TN, was reassured to find that the wholesalers he trusted, and whose products he stocked in his store, mostly deserved his trust.

Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, in Chicago, reminds retailers that of the recalls that took place in late 2007, only one or two companies in the specialty toy industry were impacted. The majority of recalls were at the mass-manufactured level, she says.

Independent gift retailers like you, who invest time and energy into thoroughly researching your vendors, can benefit from the concerns about safety. But you must be sure that the products you’re selling are safe. Reassuring customers about safety is critical, as well.

In addition to lead, recent scares about polycarbonate plastics and the material used to make them—bisphenol-a, or BPA—have also made news.

To remain educated on the latest in toy safety—and to keep your customers in the know—consider these suggestions from industry experts:

  • Carefully select manufacturers. Choose only high-quality, well-constructed toys.
  • Require testing information from your manufacturers. Share this information with your customers to alleviate any fears. Let them know you are just as concerned as they are about toy safety.
  • Spend an afternoon at a specialty toy store that you respect. Check out the products the store carries. Ask questions about the toys to see how these shop owners and managers select and market their products.
  • Check often for toy recalls. Check out, a website dedicated to improving safety of children’s products. Another site worth examining, operated by Joanne and Stephanie Oppenheim. Since 1989, the site has featured independent reviews of children’s products. In light of the recent toy recalls, the Oppenheims are requiring companies to provide documentation that products have been tested for phthalates and lead at independent labs.
  • Sign up for consumer alerts from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Heather Johnson Durocher

Durocher is a northern Michigan-based journalist who writes frequently about business for newspapers and magazines. She has contributed to USA Weekend, Woman's Day, Parents and American Baby. Visit her website at

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