Finding Safe Toys

Many parents spooked by the recent recalls of millions of unsafe toys made in China are seeking American-made toys for their kids, but they're not always easy to find.

On The Early Show Tuesday, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offered help.

She also cautioned that parents need to be careful even when buying items made in the U.S., though safety requirements for those toys are generally more stringent.

Koeppen says there simply aren't that many U.S.-made toys. Some eighty-percent of toys sold in the U.S. are manufactured in China, so it requires some digging.

Koeppen adds that companies that make toys in America have seen a recent surge in business as a result of the recalls.

Koeppen found two companies that make toys in the U.S., and a Web site that distributes such toys.

Holgate Toys (www.holgatetoy.com) of Bradford, Pa., is one of the American manufactures. It's been making toys since 1929. The other is Maple Landmark of Middlebury, Vt. It's been in business for 28 years.

Both companies use non-toxic paints and finishes, and local suppliers they know and trust for materials. Toxic paints were at the heart of several of the recalls of Chinese-made toys.

A Web site that makes searching for toys made in the U.S. easy is www.usmadetoys.com. It's a distributor, not a manufacturer.

But Koeppen stressed toys that made in the U.S. aren't necessarily worry-free.

USMadeToys.com has a disclaimer on its Web site saying it expects the manufacturers whose products it carries use lead-free finishes and comply with all federal regulations.

Country of origin isn't a guarantee that something is good or bad, Koeppen said. Parents should always check toys for small parts that could break off and be ingested by kids, age-appropriate toys and, of course, safe paints and finishes.

More kids are injured by small parts than lead paint, Koeppen said.

THE FOLOWING INFORMATION IS POSTED ON THE WEB SITES OF THE COMPANIES MENTIONED:

Holgate Toys -- www.holgatetoy.com
Factory in Bradford, Pa.

Holgate Toys, "As Old as the Nation ..."

Holgate Toys has a remarkable history to share. The roots of Holgate Toy Company trace back to 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution was signed and George Washington became President. Cornelius Holgate established a woodworking shop outside of Philadelphia in a colonial village called Roxborough. He started making hearth brush and feather duster wood handles for the village shop owners. Generation after generation of Holgate's kept making wood handles and other wood parts. As the country grew so did Holgate's business. Eventually fourth generation Holgate family moved to north central PA because of the abundance of natural resources.

In 1929, Holgate was one of the first toy companies in the U.S. to research and develop the educational, preschool toy market for children. Holgate worked closely with the early educators in the emerging Kindergarten program to develop safe, educational toys that had play value. Jarvis Rockwell, brother of famous illustrator Norman Rockwell, was the chief toy designer for Holgate from 1930 through the mid 1960's. Rockwell's concern for safety, durability and multiple plays earned him recognition as one of America's finest toy designers. Holgate toys were approved and endorsed by leading authorities in the field of childhood education.

Today's Holgate toys enjoy the same reputation for superior quality. Holgate toys are made in Bradford, PA and Holgate is a division of Pepperell Braiding Company. Pepperell is a leading maker of craft products in the US with manufacturing facilities in both Pepperell MA and Bradford. Parents and grandparents who recognize the importance of long-lasting playthings appreciate the care that goes into Holgate toys and have trusted them for years. Holgate uses the finest American hardwoods to make its toys. They are carefully cut, sanded, and finished to exceed all toy safety standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US. Holgate toys are non-toxic and fun to play with!

When Fred Rogers was looking for a company to make his Neighborhood Trolley, he turned to the finest name in wooden toys for children, Holgate. Holgate has been making a variety of wooden toy products for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for nearly twenty years.

Many of today's toys like the Bingo Bed that was an original design patent from 1934 and still made today to the original size and style. This is the toy that all others copied. Other classic Holgate toys include the Rocky Color Cone first introduced by Holgate in 1938 and the Jumbo Lacing Beads in 1948 … both still being made and enjoyed by kids today. Holgate will soon be introducing limited edition toys from its line. The first toy is set for November 2007 and it is the Ducking Duck toy from 1947.

Finishes:

Holgate uses non-toxic paints on its toys. The company has been using the same local US supplier for 20 years. They are a 3rd generation family business with over 70 years of experience in paint industry. All finishes meet and exceed the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for heavy metals and ASTM F963 standards.

There are no foreign components in our products. Everything is US made and Manufactured to the strictest of standards. We exceed US requirements for safety. Our paints are NON TOXIC!

Maple Landmark Woodcraft -- www.maplelandmark.com
Based in Middlebury, Vt.

We are about thirty people dedicated to making great product here in Vermont. Most of us are proud to be native to the area and are privileged to live to such a beautiful area. Common conversation around the shop goes to the wildlife we've seen while driving to and from work. Fox, rabbits, and turkey are common. Occasionally we'll see raccoons, white-tailed deer, and moose. Black bear and fishers are a very rare treat. Check out the links below to learn more about us and our company.

The majority of our products are toys and we take toy safety seriously. On the technical side, we follow both the US Consumer Product Safety Commission rules and the voluntary standards ASTM F-963. These guidelines govern small parts, sharp points, chemical makeup, and many other aspects to avoid hazards.

Our efforts do not stop there. We strive to produce product that will last for generations. This means going beyond minimum guidelines. Everyone has experienced the toy that broke the day after Christmas. That probably isn't a lack following official guidelines but it is from a lack of concern for overall quality. For example, a softwood block is safe, a hard maple block is superior.

Finishes:

There is great concern about the components of finishes. We hear about things like lead in the paint of imported Chinese products. Again there are standards that are supposed to be followed. At Maple Landmark, we use a variety of finishes, depending on the specific product line. Some products have no finish, while others have whey- or beeswax-based coatings. We also use urethanes and lacquers, depending on the required appearance. Lead is illegal as a component in consumer coatings in the United States and we've occasionally had third-party testing for lead and other heavy metals, just to be sure we are getting what we expect from our suppliers.

As with our other materials, our finishes are purchased as locally as possible. Nearly all are produced in Vermont, by people we know and have worked with for many years. If you would like more information about the finish on specific products, feel free to contact us.

Age Grading

Just as we have an obligation to produce safe product, it is always important to remember that appropriate use goes hand-in-hand with safe design and construction. Whenever necessary, we mark our products with the intended age of the child who may be using it. Giving a more advanced product to a younger child, no matter how "advanced" you perceive that child to be, can be a hazard. A marking of age 3+ is typically an indication of small parts hazards-it could be a problem for younger children who may be putting things in their mouth. Always monitor younger children when they are playing around older friends and siblings. What is okay for one child may not be okay for the next.

U.S. Made Toys -- www.usmadetoys.com
Distributor, based in Southbridge, Mass.

Started the company in 2002. The creator happened to be taking a website-design course around the time he went to a popular theme park in Florida and noticed that most of the prizes and gifts said Made In China, and cost a fortune. He wanted to make a statement about the fact that there are a lot of good items still made right here in the United States and there should be affordable ways for people to get them. Carries a wide variety of toys. Must be made in the United States and be of high quality to make it onto the site. On this site there's also a section that provides links to many other toy manufacturers in the U.S. -- good resource for parents. Has seen a jump in sales in response to the recent recalls.

Product Safety:

We do our best to select products from quality minded manufacturers. However, we are a distributor and not a manufacturer. Although we can not perform independent testing or evaluation of the products we sell, we expect the manufacturers whose products we carry to use safe lead-free finishes and to comply with federal regulations regarding product safety. If you have questions regarding construction or components of any specific product, please let us know and we will provide you with appropriate contact information for the manufacturer.