Toy design, not production, blamed for recalls

New study of 550 U.S. toy recalls finds majority were because of design flaws and not because of manufacturing defects or lead paint.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- A new study released Tuesday that analyzed two decades of toy recalls in the United States found that a defect in the product design, rather manufacturing flaws such as unsafe raw materials or poor craftsmanship, were responsible for a majority of those recalls.

The study from the University of Manitoba business school in Winnipeg, Canada looked at 550 toy recalls reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) since 1988.

The report showed that 420, or about 77 percent of those recalls, were as a result of problems attributed to design flaws. Only 54, or 10 percent of recalls, were due to manufacturing issues such as overheating of batteries, lead paint and inappropriate raw materials.

"The distinction between design and manufacturing is important particularly in the context of the toy industry because the design of toys is performed by toy companies such as Mattel, whereas manufacturing is done overseas. So is China really the problem?" Hari Bapuji, professor at the Asper School of Business, said in a statement. Bapuji co-authored the report with Prof. Paul Beamish at the University of Western Ontario.

Jim Silver, a toy industry expert and editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Toy Wishes magazine, said he's somewhat frustrated that "people have got a little bit off track" with the recent string of toy recalls as a result of lead paint used on the products.

"The CPSC on its list of top 5 hidden hazards doesn't even list lead paint," Silver said. "The real issue with toy safety is choking hazards because of small magnets used in toys, balloons marbles and other such small objects. These are part of the design problems," he said but added that he also believed lead should not be in children's toys.

According to the CPSC, the top 5 "hidden home hazards" include magnets. The agency said 8 million toys have been recalled since 2005 due to choking hazards for small children.

Other risks to consumers are from recalled products that aren't removed from homes, unstable objects that can cause "tip-over" accidents, window drapery and blind cords and pool and spa drains. Top of page