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Canada's Changing Toy Safety Standard
In addition to the US toy safety changes brought about by the CPSIA and Europe’s updated Toy Safety Directive, Canada is also proposing some significant changes in their toy safety regulation, the Hazardous Products Act and the associated Hazardous Products (Toys) Regulations. This legislation has not been significantly updated since 1991, and Health Canada is taking a “Stepwise Approach” rather than implementing significant changes all at once.
The first step includes proposed revisions of mechanical and electrical toy safety requirements, specifically:
· toys with magnets or magnetic components,
· sound-emitting toys,
· the size and shape of certain toys,
· plastic film or plastic bags used in toys or toy packaging, and
· toy labeling for age use and for specific choking hazard warnings.
The proposed updates to the Canadian standard include a review of other global standards (US, Europe, ISO) with an eye towards harmonization. Harmonization of global toy safety requirements is certainly a worthy goal. Having to test several sets of toys to several slightly different requirements significantly increases the testing cost for manufacturers without truly adding safety.
Health Canada’s proposed revisions to the above five tests do take into account other toy safety standards and incorporate some of the same requirements – but still have their own unique requirements. Highlights of some of these differences between the US standard ASTM F963-08 and the proposed Canadian legislation include the following.
· Toys with Magnets or Magnetic Components
Proposed definition of hazardous magnets is similar to other standards – magnets with flux index of 50 kG2mm2 or more and that fit entirely within the small parts cylinder, before or after reasonably foreseeable use. Canada’s reasonably foreseeable use tests methods are different from other standards, however, as is Canada’s small parts regulation which includes a force of 1 lb. to determine compliance. Canada is proposing a specific Tension Test for Accessible Magnets That Cannot Be Grasped, and does not plan to incorporate ASTM F963’s cycle testing to assess accessibility of potentially hazardous magnets.
· Sound-Emitting Toys
Proposed modification includes alignment with ASTM F963-08 with regards to several testing conditions. However, Canada does not exempt certain items that ASTM F963 and other standards do exempt – earphones and headphones, squeeze toys and toys where sound is generated by muscular or blowing action of user – and there are some differences in acceptable sound levels in the proposed modification.
· The Size and Shape of Certain Toys
These requirements include dimensional restrictions for rattles, squeeze toys, teethers, legs of baby gyms, pre-school play figures, hemispheric-shaped toys, toy pacifiers, small balls, and marbles. Proposed modifications closely align with other standards but again, have some unique requirements. For example, while the ASTM F963 requirements for toy pacifiers applies to toy pacifiers intended for children less than three years, the Canadian proposal extends the requirement to all toy pacifiers (up to 14 year).
· Flexible Plastic Film in Toys or Toy Packaging
The proposed amendment to this section of Canada’s toy standard closely aligns with ASTM F963-08 requirements. If enacted, the amendment will eliminate the need for the current bilingual suffocation hazard warning currently required on certain plastic bags because minimum plastic film thickness will apply.
· Toy Labelling for Age Use and Specific Choking Hazard Warnings
While Health Canada has for years been recommending that toys include appropriate age grade and warning labels, the proposed revision to Canada’s toy safety standard will mandate this. The warning requirements are closely aligned with ASTM F963-08 and 16 CFR 1500.19. As with any verbiage, the required warnings on Canadian product must be present in both English and French languages.
Health Canada’s Proposal for the Modernization of Canada’s Safety Legislation for Children’s Toys: Mechanical and Electrical Hazards, Part I is an informative document that includes details about why certain tests are being added or revisions made to current requirements, and the reasoning behind some of the differences in the proposed Canadian requirements and those of other toy safety standards. The bottom line is that while the proposed changes in the Canadian Hazardous Products Act and the associated Hazardous Products (Toys) Regulations provide more harmonization with other toy safety standards, there are still many differences. A toy that meets all US requirements does not necessarily meet all Canadian requirements, and vice versa. This is true of toys that meet European (EN71) or ISO (ISO 8124) requirements as well. While the standards continue to move closer, none are completely harmonized and additional testing and associated costs will still be necessary.