10/31/07 — Christmas could mean frustration for parents on hunt for holiday toys

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Christmas could mean frustration for parents on hunt for holiday toys

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 31, 2007 1:51 PM

Recent toy recalls have parents of small children rethinking their shopping plans this year for Christmas.

Where a toy was manufactured might be as important as how much in demand it is this season.

That's because during the past two months, toy manufacturers have recalled hundreds of thousands of lead-contaminated children's products produced in Asia. Health officials say lead is toxic if ingested by young children, and regulations say toys containing more than .06 percent lead that is accessible to the user must be recalled. Some toy industry watchdogs are trying to make the regulations even more stringent.

Shakia and Duane Spears are now looking for a substitute for the toy train they planned to buy for their son.

It is on the recall list.

"What we get is going to have to be something mouth-proof, something that if I'm not looking and they're gnawing on it, it won't hurt them," said Mrs. Spears, whose five children range in age from one month old to age 7.

And if the safer, lead-free item costs a little more, Mrs. Spears said she will adjust her budget.

Two of those American-made brands are Constructive Playthings and One Step Ahead, which are made for children from birth to 3 years old.

"I was just thinking about how we were going to do Christmas," Mrs. Spears added. "We decided one toy each that I knew for sure each child would play with. We don't overdo it. We don't believe in going into debt for Christmas."

Sekayi Ashford is also thinking about safety -- and budget.

She is not going to be buying any toys this year except for maybe Bratz dolls for her 10-year old twins. She also has a 6-year-old son and a 3-month-old daughter.

"My 10-year-olds and my 6-year-old know not to put stuff in their mouths," she said. "I might just get all three a computer and some clothes and sneakers."

Brandy Davis tries to buy American-made toys, too, but her 5-year-old daughter often asks for items that are not manufactured in the United States.

"I'll definitely research anything I plan to buy and ask around about things you don't normally have to think about," she said. "I've heard parents at my daughter's daycare talk about the recall. One mother said she's afraid for her daughter to put anything in her mouth."

LaSandra Williams is thankful that her 7-year-old daughter has outgrown toys.

"We don't do too much with toys," she said. "(She) likes pocketbooks and lip gloss.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said the company is trying to ensure the products sold in the stores comply with all standards in place to protect the consumer.

"We feel very confident that the industry's aggressive re-testing efforts (will result in) the fall of 2007 (being) the safest season ever for toys," she said.

The company has launched an enhanced toy safety effort that officials hope will give parents additional reassurance as the holidays approach, she added.

Wal-Mart's toy merchandise manager Laura Phillips said the company's new supplier-to-shelf safety program will underscore and support the strenuous activity being taken by branded manufacturers and the toy industry.

"We've heard parents' concerns over recent recalls, and we're working hard to be their advocate, ensuring everyone involved in the toy business plays their part in improving standards," Ms. Phillips said. "Parents need reassurance over quality and safety -- we feel the very same way and will work night and day to help."

Jennifer Strickland, who has twin boys and recently moved from Goldsboro to Henderson, says she doesn't believe that the toy industry's aggressive re-testing efforts will fix the problem.

"I believe after Christmas we'll see another round of recalls," she said.

Missy Brock, mother of twins, agrees. Her daughters will turn 2 years old next week.

"With birthday and Christmas right together, you really don't know what to buy," said Mrs. Brock, who expects to see a massive toy recall after Christmas.

"They want the money for Christmas, and they'll say, 'Let's recall them after Christmas,'" she said. "Family members have told me about the Dora and Diego toys (recalled in early August), which luckily we didn't have."

In September, Mattel and its subsidiary, Fisher-Price, announced a recall of about 675,000 Barbie accessories, 90,000 Geo Trax locomotive toys and 8,900 Bongo Band toy drum sets.

In October, another 38,000 Go, Diego, Go toy boats were recalled.

And on Monday, the Consumer Reports magazine called for federal inquiry over lead in a red-colored blood pressure cuff that is part of a Fisher-Price medical kit toy. A report that will appear in the December issue of Consumer Reports said the plastic cuff comes in several colors. The advisory pertains only to the red cuff.

"I've been cleaning out (the twins') toy room. It makes you wonder," Mrs. Brock said. "I need to print out the whole list. It keeps growing."

To view toys recalled on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site, see www.cpsc.gov and do a search for "toys."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.