From a simple idea to a product on store shelves, making toys safe for children to play with is a top priority by toymakers and considered during every stage of development and production. To ensure that toys are safe, the U.S. toy industry follows a mandatory set of safety requirements within ASTM F963 – Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety, created under the auspices of ASTM International. The industry works year-round with pediatricians and other medical professionals, government, consumer groups, and child development experts in the continual review and revision of ASTM F963, which was most recently updated in 2017.
From conception and design through to production, safety is built into every aspect of every toy before it reaches store shelves – and the hands of children. With about 3 billion toys sold in the U.S. each year (and new toys invented all the time), the toy community is committed to working with pediatricians and other medical professionals, government, consumer groups, and child development experts in the continual review and revision of our country’s most important toy safety standard – ASTM F963, Standard Consumer Safety Specification on Toy Safety.
First developed in the 1970s and adopted by ASTM International in 1986, ASTM F963 is today one of the most respected and widely emulated toy safety standards in the world. It includes more than 100 requirements and tests that cover the mechanical, physical, electrical, chemical, microbiological, and material safety of toys and is helmed by the ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety, a multi-stakeholder expert group that continually ensures the standard supports safety and reflects the latest information on risk.
Although the standard was voluntarily used by the toy industry for decades, since 2008, federal law has mandated that all toys sold in the U.S. are tested and certified compliant with F963. The standard was most recently updated in 2017.
ASTM F963 has been recognized by U.S. Congress, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other regulatory bodies around the world as the gold standard for product safety. In 2013, the Subcommittee on Toy Safety received the CPSC Chairman’s Commendation Circle Award in recognition of its work in protecting children over the previous three decades.
Over the years, the standard has protected children in countless ways, as it accounts for possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public but may be encountered during the normal use (or misuse) of a toy. The Subcommittee’s work often goes beyond what is required by the ASTM process in the interest of children’s safety – the group has even instituted a standard working group on emerging issues to review incident and recall data in order to identify emerging issues, if any, and direct standards development accordingly. It also regularly looks to other international standards for toys in search of opportunities for potential alignment.
“Our efforts to continually identify potential hazards – and respond quickly with a standard to eliminate said hazards – have directly improved product safety and helped keep children out of harm’s way,” says Joan Lawrence, chair of the ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety and The Toy Association’s SVP of standards and regulatory affairs.
The following are just a few examples of emerging hazards previously identified by the Subcommittee and now addressed in ASTM F963:
In response to incident data, the Subcommittee developed the first standards to address certain hemispheric, cup-shaped objects that posed a suffocation hazard and toys with spherical ends which posed impaction hazards to young children.
We all know that toys are fun. From building blocks and dolls, to puzzles and action figures, toys bring laughter and learning to kids of all ages and are a critical component of their healthy development. But as a member of the medical community (and in many cases, also a parent, grandparent, or caregiver) you may find yourself wondering from time to time if children’s toys are truly safe. The good news? Toy safety is a top priority and year-round commitment that is shared by industry, government, medical professionals, and child development experts.
Leading the charge are toymakers and retailers who work day-in and day-out to ensure that all toys sold in the United States, no matter where in the world they are made, comply with our nation’s strict federal safety standard: ASTM F963 – Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. ASTM F963 is one of the most respected and widely used toy safety standards in the world, and includes more than 100 requirements and tests that cover mechanical, physical, electrical, chemical, microbiological, and material safety in order to protect children at play. First developed in the 1970s, the standard was adopted by ASTM International in 1986. Since 2008, federal law has mandated that all toys sold in the U.S. are tested and certified compliant with F963.
Over the years, the standard has protected children in countless ways, as it relates to possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public, but may be encountered during the normal use (or misuse) of a toy. The standard is continually reviewed by a multi-stakeholder expert group that includes industry, medical and child development experts, government, consumer representatives, engineers, and testing labs, and was most recently revised in late 2016.
“ASTM F963-16 – the latest iteration of what is widely considered the ‘gold standard’ for children’s products – is a compilation of efforts throughout the past five years to explore emerging safety issues, new product features, and new ways that toys are being used that may pose a risk to children,” says Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs at the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and chair of the ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety, which continually looks to ensure that the standard supports safety and reflects the latest information on risk.
Changes made in the 2016 edition of ASTM F963 include, among others:
The magic of play! Getting children to play is easy. Keeping them safe and accident-free takes education, awareness and care. The Toy Industry Association (TIA), celebrating its centenary this year, is committed to keeping children safe at play. In July 2015, TIA launched www.PlaySafe.org, a website dedicated to providing trusted toy and safe play resources for parents and caregivers.
“Continuing TIA’s long-standing commitment to toy safety education, PlaySafe.org is a content-rich destination designed to provide families with accurate information, news, and tips about safe and fun play,” said Steve Pasierb, TIA president and CEO.
The information found on the PlaySafe.org site has been vetted by TIA’s toy safety experts, who for decades have worked hard to ensure that kids’ playthings are safe.
TIA’s Joan Lawrence, SVP of standards and regulatory affairs, is featured prominently on the site as TIA’s “Toy Safety Mom.” Lawrence provides personal insight and views as both a parent and lifelong child safety advocate with more than 20 years of experience in the toy industry. Highlights of the user-friendly website include: