As most of you already know, I have two boys, ages 3 and 4. Therefore it follows naturally that we own the movie 'Cars' and have every die-cast car in the collection. I was most alarmed today when the first thing I see on CNN is one of their cars has been recalled. For those not aware of this, the particular car is "Sarge" and you can go here to send the product back and receive a voucher. This comes only a short time after we had to go through their toys and remove all of the Diego toys because they were recalled and only a few months after having to do the same with their Thomas train set.
I cringe at thinking the amount of times my kids put these cars in their mouths. Even though the recall affected only one of the die-cast cars, I have pulled all of them for several days to make sure only one car was affected. I had actually already ceased buying the cars before this occurred, because EBay sellers here comb the stores (as they have no lives) and prevent kids from playing with these toys so they can make a measely profit - not that I am bitter.
What is becoming increasingly obvious is the question of cost savings in outsourcing toy production to China. Those who have looked at the Thomas train sets know how expensive they are. A train set can run many hundreds of dollars - yet they are almost exclusively made in China. I do not have an issue with production in China and I have long believed that, if paid correctly, the Chinese can make toys every good as those in the US or Europe. However, I find myself rethinking this assumption. For all the profit that RC2 must make from the Thomas trains, couldn't they have had the production standards in place to prevent this? I would expect a lead paint issue from toy trains like Imaginarium - which obviously operates on much lower margins. But I would not expect an issue from a toy that claims as high a quality as Thomas.
I am now rethinking what toys I should get my children. In an ironic sense, I feel better that my older son now plays the Wii alot because at least he won't get lead poisoning! It is unfortunate that simply not buying toys from China is not a solution - practically everything is made there right now. I may, however, boycott the smaller toys that may be put in the mouth for the next several years. In their place, I would buy technology solutions like computer games, outdoor play objects (balls, sports equipment, etc), and larger indoor toys that I know they won't put in their mouths. I may also look for wooden toys produced in the US or Europe. Sometimes I even think of doing what my father did for me when I was young - he started up his table saw and router and made me some wooden toys himself.