As the father of two preschoolers under age five, I’ve been frustrated with the toy industry’s failure to aggressively address lead, PVC and phthalates in toys. Needless to say, I was happy to see that both Wal-Mart and Toys R’ Us announced new guidelines for manufacturers last week.

In a letter to customers, Toys R’ Us CEO Gerald Storch stated that the company’s “commitment to [children’s] safety is non-negotiable,” and listed new guidelines for new quality assurance standards and oversight, scheduled reduction of phythalates and PVC and elimination of all nickel-cadmium batteries for all products produced exclusively for Toys R’ Us.

Storch went on to say:

We know that you trust and expect that we will always do the right thing when it comes to the safety of children, and we take that responsibility very seriously. At every turn, we will continue to look for ways to provide the safest shopping environment for the children and families we serve. We love kids and babies – and safety in all we do for them, and for you, is an imperative.

Considering the number of toy recalls in the last year, I would have liked to have seen the industry take action sooner, but I was happy to see the industry policing itself.

Or not.

As it turns out, this week the Consumer Product Safety Commission will present new stricter toy safety guidelines for toymakers and retailers.

A-ha.

I believe both Mr. Storch and his company truly cares about children, but quite frankly, their timing sucks. Because their announcement happens days before the CPSC announcement, you have to question their sincerity.

What’s more, they’ve missed an opportunity to set themselves apart. The products with phthalates are being phased out by the end of the year (after the holiday season is over). The “batteries for all products produced exclusively for Toys R’ Us” guideline leaves open a loophole for toys that aren’t produced exclusively for Toys R’ Us (which I’ll assume is more than a few).

Sure, this is a step in the right direction, but as the nation’s largest toy retailer, Toys R’ Us could do more by more forcing manufacturers to create toys that are safe right now.

They could be “the company that made toys safe again.” Instead, they appear to be “that company that waits until regulation forces them to act.”

I’d love to hear what other parents think of this. Weigh in by commenting below.

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