Parents to Toy Association: Stop Fighting Protections for Kids’ Health

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(New York City) Outraged by the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) consistent public demonstrations of opposition to laws that would remove toxic chemicals from toys, parents, students, and health advocates distributed information exposing the contrast between TIA’s professed commitment to toy safety and its lobbying against proposed laws to protect children. The coalition centered their educational activity on attendees of the Toy of the Year Awards in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The Toy Industry Association has lobbied against legislation in numerous states that would identify toxic chemicals, prioritize those that are likely to affect children’s health, and require children’s product manufacturers to report their use of the most hazardous chemicals, even phase out their use. These laws would make toys safer, while giving parents, guardians and caregivers the information they need in order to make healthier choices. For example, in Maine, the Toy Industry Association spoke publicly against proposed action to restrict bisphenol A in food and beverage containers, none of which are considered toys.

In New York, the site of the annual Toy of the Year Awards, TIA reported taking positions on 67 Assembly bills in 2014 and 33 Senate bills. More than half of these bills addressed toxics and environmental health with no mention of children’s health or products. TIA took positions on bills that would develop a toxics information clearinghouse, limit levels of mercury in lighting, track connections between environmental exposures and health, and other issues that have no bearing on the toy industry.

The Toy Industry Association is currently working to block the efforts of NY’s counties to protect their most vulnerable residents. In December 2014, TIA testified unsuccessfully in opposition to the Albany County Toxic-Free Toys Act, and in January 2015, TIA testified against similar pending legislation in Suffolk County.

The primary question parents and advocates had was: Why is the Toy Industry Association more closely aligned with the positions of the Chemical Industry than with parents and children’s health organizations? They called on toy makers and retailers to hold their trade association accountable.

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Displaying a banner that read “TIA: Don’t Toy with Our Children’s Health,” the advocates made clear their demand for safer, healthier toys. TIA’s published statements that “safety is our top priority,” and that they “share parents’ concern about children’s potential exposure to toxic chemicals,” contrasted sharply with their actions at statehouses around the country, advocates said. Further, it is out of step with the direction of many retailers, including buybuy Baby, Walmart, Target, and CVS, which have taken steps to identify and limit toxic chemicals in products they sell.

“When TIA fights programs that would give product makers more information about chemicals in their products, when TIA fights programs that limit toxics, they leave toy makers vulnerable to the liability that comes with use of chemicals that can harm children’s health. Every day, scientific evidence draws closer connections between certain commonly used chemicals and devastating, lifelong health consequences. Why leave product makers vulnerable? TIA should use all its skills and knowledge base to support toy makers in finding truly safe, non-toxic materials,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York and organizer of the Getting Ready for Baby campaign.

“Our homes, schools, workplaces, and even playgrounds contain untested chemicals. Our children are exposed to them on a daily basis, including through their toys”, states Trisha Sheehan, Regional Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Sheehan further states, “Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters. For the vast majority, we don’t know their health impacts, because chemicals are not tested for safety before hitting store shelves. That’s not right. Moms across America agree that we need better laws to protect our kids from toxic chemical exposure — but the Toy Industry Association has been lobbying against such laws, even while it says that safety is its top priority. Moms say to TIA: stop the charade, or we are sending you to time out. If safety is your top priority, then protect our children from chemical exposures by seeking out innovative, safer solutions to the chemicals currently in children’s toys.”

“CEH’s work over the past ten years has eliminated toxic threats to children from dozens of products like baby bibs, lunchboxes, diaper rash creams, playground equipment and many others. In every case, companies were able to make safer products without sacrificing quality or significantly raising costs. Our work is proof that the toy industry can make safer products without disease-causing chemicals that threaten our children’s health,” says Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for the Center for Environmental Health.

“A toy is supposed to bring joy to a child, not expose them to harmful chemicals. We childproof our homes, it’s time for the toy industry to childproof toys,” stated Pamela LaBrake, founder of Parents Against Lindane.

“The Toy Industry Association isn’t playing around when it lobbies to keep consumers in the dark about the toxic chemicals contained in children’s toys. Toy makers should come clean and support disclosure and elimination of toxics in play items. Our families deserve better,” said Aileen Sheil, NYPIRG Board of Directors Chairperson and Queens College student.

The event was organized by the JustGreen Partnership, a collaboration of over 50 organizations representing more than a million New Yorkers, which works for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities. Learn more at just-green.org

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