Each year at this time, NSW Fair Trading officers hit the retailers in the hunt for dangerous toys, and bring a sackful of the worst examples to the CHOICE labs for testing.
The main offenders are usually small retailers, discount stores, market stalls and pop-up shops in malls. These retailers often don't understand the safety laws that apply to toys in Australia.
Major department and toy stores usually have their own safety and compliance teams so you're much less likely to find dodgy toys on their shelves.
See the full list of the toys that failed this year's NSW Fair Trading toy blitz.
Notification: In December 2020, after years of campaigning by CHOICE and other organisations, the Australian government introduced mandatory safety standards for button batteries. This standard will help prevent children from gaining access to the batteries which, if swallowed, can be lethal. Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers have been given 18 months to comply with the new standards.
What we usually find
The good news is that each year there seems to be fewer dangerous toys out there, no doubt due to regular blitzes by Fair Trading and consumer affairs departments around the country and penalties for traders who've breached the laws. Education programs also help small traders to understand the laws.
The bad news? There are still many toys that fail basic safety tests. CHOICE puts the toys through tests (based on the Australian toy standard AS/NZS ISO 8124) that simulate the rough and tumble of kids' play. For example, we:
- drop the toys to see if they break too easily
- pull and twist parts that might detach
- check if the batteries are easily accessible.
Any small part that breaks off or detaches can be a choking hazard for young children. Batteries and small magnets are extremely dangerous if swallowed.
Projectile toys (guns, and bows and arrows) are tested to see if they are too powerful, or if they can fire a makeshift projectile such as a sharp pencil, whether the projectile's rubber suction caps come off too easily, and if they have the right warning labels.
What can you do when toy shopping this year?
Use your common sense and think about the following:
- Does the toy look cheaply made?
- Does it have small parts such as wheels, bells and lights that look like they'd easily break off and become a choking hazard?
- Are there any sharp edges or points?
- Are the batteries easily accessible?
If yes to any of these, just don't buy it.
Avoid toys that look like unlicensed copies of well-known brands or characters. Shoddily painted Spider-man figures, off-colour Minions and Thomas the Tank Engine trains; we find a lot of these and they very often fail safety tests. Genuine licensed versions of these toys are usually better made and a safer choice.