Toy Association’s Joan Lawrence Testifies at Senate Hearing on Toy Safety

December 2, 2021 | The Toy Association’s Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs, testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing on November 30 that aimed to address product safety concerns that often arise around the holidays.

A recording from the hearing, “Hidden Holiday Hazards: Product Safety During the Holiday Season,” can be viewed here.

Presided over by Committee Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the hearing focused on a range of product safety issues – including hazards posed by holiday decorations, counterfeit products, and battery ingestion – as well as regulation of the many consumer products that are especially relevant around the holidays.

Lawrence spoke of the year-round commitment of The Toy Association and its members to toy safety and the leadership of the industry in developing standards. She described how existing safety standards, along with mandatory testing and certification, successfully address the safety of children’s toys.

Lawrence also highlighted how existing standards for magnets and for batteries in children’s toys are examples of standards that could be modeled by other product categories. She reiterated the industry’s recommendation that many of the non-toy products common in our homes (hearing aids, remote controls, battery-operated watches and clocks, and musical greeting cards), which do not have the same safeguards to prevent children’s access to batteries, adapt a similar safety standard for batteries.

“We have also incorporated messaging as part of our year-round consumer awareness campaign on the importance of keeping children away from batteries from any product and are closely following the development of several protective technologies for the batteries themselves that may offer enhanced protection of children,” said Lawrence during her testimony.

One of the outcomes of the hearing was the introduction of a new bipartisan bill by Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn requiring all products to have mechanisms to secure battery compartments – akin to toy safety standards. The bill will be known as Reese’s Law in honor of Reese Hamsmith, an 18-month-old child who died last year after ingesting a button cell battery from a remote control.

Lawrence also pointed to the issue of counterfeit toys and the safety hazards they may pose. She described unsafe and non-compliant toys being offered and sold in online marketplaces that sidestep regulations, and reiterated Toy Association support for Congressional action on the INFORM Consumers and SHOP SAFE Acts to require more transparency and create new accountability to help reduce the presence of counterfeits and unsafe products sold online.

In addition to its work with government agencies to address the problem with counterfeits online, and toy safety in general, The Toy Association continues to advocate year-round to educate consumers on toy safety and the dangers of counterfeit products and how to avoid them.

Lawrence’s full written testimony can be found here. For more information on these topics, members are encouraged to reach out to The Toy Association’s Jennifer Gibbons, vice president of federal government affairs.