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February 25, 2003

Laws fail to protect children against hazardous toys

Rules and regulations protect adults against noise in the workplace. But no law extends similar protection to children in their daily lives even though they are sensitive to noise and hearing loss may have severe social consequences for them.

Noisy toys may damage children's hearing. Yet, in most countries, the laws still allow children to be exposed to unnecessary noise when they play. While the adult population's places of work have attracted increasing attention among law makers, little strengthening of the rules affecting children has taken place.

It is generally recognized that hours of exposure to noise levels above 85 dB may cause hearing loss, but this understanding has yet to be translated into action on regulations concerning toys.

In the United States, regulation of toy noise levels is almost non-existent. The only toy noise guideline, issued by the American Society of Testing and Materials, sets an upper allowable noise limit of 134 dB, equivalent almost to the noise level of a jet airplane at take-off. The European toy safety standard allows noise levels of up to 115 dB. According to the United States' Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA, employees in the work place may be exposed to noise levels of 115 dB for a combined maximum of 15 minutes per day. In Canada, The Hazardous Products Act of Canada prohibits toy noise levels above 100dB. Adults are advised to wear hearing protection when working in such noise levels for longer periods of time.

Sources: Occupational Safety & Health Administration - www.osha.gov; League for the Hard of Hearing - www.lhh.org

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