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Customer Review

310 of 369 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Toy Stinks, December 31, 2010
This review is from: Melissa & Doug Abby and Emma Deluxe Magnetic Wooden Dress-Up Dolls Play Set (55+ pcs) (Toy)
We received this set as a Christmas present for our almost-five year old daughter. She actually already has another variation of it, but this one has two dolls and more outfits and so she was immediately taken in. So were the rest of us - by the intense sinus-burning odor of VOCs, presumably formaldehyde.

Melissa and Doug call their toys 'wood', but the majority are made of MDF - which is only wood in the loosest possible sense. It consists mostly of resin, and sawdust (enter the term wood). These are manufactured in China, and as the Melissa and Doug reps have told me in the past when I've questioned the smells their toys emit, there are no regulations on the amount of formaldehyde and other VOCs in their toys - or as they spin it in a positive light, "Our toys go through rigorous testing and meet all CPSC regualtions." There are no CPSC regulations on formaldehyde in pressed-wood products, like those made by Melissa & Doug.

In my experience, formaldehyde can cause lightheadedness and confusion, as well as sensations of burning in the eyes, nose and throat. This toy is no exception. The smell was so strong, I could detect its presence from clear on the other side of the room.

So what if your kids are exposed to a little formaldehyde, right? And if it were only a little, sure - I suppose (though I don't think it should be in their toys). But it's in virtually everything, from clothing and bedding to shampoos and soaps and baby wipes to *any* pressed wood furniture, household cabinetry, and the list goes on and on.

My children developed a clear sensitivity to it early on in their lives, when they began experiencing chemical-induced eczema from their clothing (imagine the thrill of locating formaldehyde-free clothing). So my gripe with this toy is rather personal. It's very clearly made of a poison and one that can have nasty consequences with prolonged exposure. Permanent damage to lung tissue and eventually, cancer can be long-term side effects.

So, while I understand that people wanting to bury their head in the sand will rush to click 'unhelpful' I think it's worthwhile to reach just a few people out there who believe their kids deserve better and that manufacturing toxic junk for our children is a practice that will only stop when the toxicity of these ingredients are exposed to the general public and the consumers put down their foot and say these business practices are unacceptable.

Perhaps if we all worked to make this information part of the 'general knowledge' like lead paint and BPA, well-intentioned relatives wouldn't usher these toxins into our homes.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2011, 7:43:36 AM PST
Dubyac99 says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2012, 1:59:18 PM PST
H. Collins says:
because this is about children's health. The reviewer is not so much complaining, but rather making a very clear and true point. Kids deserve non-toxic toys.

Posted on Mar 7, 2012, 6:04:37 PM PST
Annie says:
Thank you so much! I love your reviews, and look forward to reading more (I have two girls, 5 and 2). Thank you for all of your hard work and the research you've done to help us purchase safer plaything for children.

Posted on Mar 20, 2012, 10:43:04 AM PDT
Cheryl F. says:
Thank you - I read ALL the comments because I want to know both pros and cons of any product I buy for my grandchildren.

Posted on Nov 12, 2012, 12:57:03 PM PST
I'm so glad that someone other than me noticed this as well. I can't believe how popular M&D is with the "natural" and "wooden toy" crowd. The smell is horrible on many of their items and I don't know the cause (perhaps MDF resin/glue or the paint?) but I cannot tolerate it (I have no allergies). If I receive an M&D gift, I let it air out for days in a separate room with the window open.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012, 5:37:23 PM PST
Thank-you so much for this review. I have seen that each the 1 star reviews all stated the same thing. They marked it so low due to the smell of the product.
We were going to get this for our daughter and for my brother's children. His child has had a lot of medical issues esp with severe and deadly allergies (oh and ezcema). I would not want to get something that the child could have an allergy or asthma attack esp if he were to have it near his face or touching his face after handling the toy.

Posted on Feb 24, 2013, 11:58:06 PM PST
Julia says:
This is very interesting and yet another toxin to be aware of. I am so disappointed because I thought Melissa and Doug to be American Made and good quality. It's not like you can go out to WalMart and find it. So, what brand do you recommend?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2013, 12:28:59 AM PST
goonius says:
For American made wooden toys, I would go with Holgate. Their full line is available only on their website and they are not inexpensive, but we own a few of their toys and they hold up very well. As a side note, my dad owned a Holgate wooden stacking toy as a child and it's still in such fine shape that my children play with it, although it's 60+ years old, has been through 3 generations, and countless children.

Maple Landmark also makes all thier toys in the USA.

There are also still some small wooden toy makers on Etsy who disclose all materials and processes that go into making their toys (you want a kiln dried natural wood finished with non-toxic stains, paints, and seals) if you want US made toys only.

There are also a few German companies with fairly high standards.

Kathe Kruse makes dolls, soft toys, and a few wooden toys exclusively in Germany -- their safety standards are some of the best I've encountered. Grimm's Speil und Holz make some high end wooden toys. Also, Haba and Selecta make a lot of their toys in Germany (I would check for country of origin on each individual items as this seems to have changed in recent years) but these companies do seem to adhere to much higher standards, regardless. Erzi also makes all of their toys in Germany.

One of our favorites is Plan Toys, which are made in Thailand. They use some pressed wood in their products, but all their pressed wood and their glues are E-0, which is certified to be completely free of formaldehyde. Also, their toys are just really neat and well-made.

As for non-wooden toys, you'll find higher standards with companies like Bruder, Playmobil, and Legos -- even those made in China -- are actually quite safe. All of the above are made of ABS plastic, which, beyond its production, is non-toxic -- unless you burn it.

And then the American company, Green Toys, who make all their toys of recycled milk bottles right here in California.

I'm sure there are others I've forgotten to mention, but if I think of any worthwhile ones, I'll repost if it would be helpful.

Also, while you can find a lot of these toys right here on Amazon, Kangaroo Boo also has a great selection, and a really well laid out site, which is also searchable by country of manufacture -- so if you only wanted Haba toys made in Germany, for instance, they list accurate country of origin.

Hope that is a helpful start :)

Posted on Dec 1, 2013, 5:23:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2013, 5:28:16 AM PST
amoreviaggi says:
Not unhelpful at all! Thanks for the info, including the suggested alternatives in response to another Amazon customer's question. Any experience with Hape products? I've got some on order after having a hard time choosing between them and Plan Toys.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2013, 7:10:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2013, 7:12:11 PM PST
goonius says:
You're welcome. We do own a Hape kitchen, which I have reviewed here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3MG7D4RN904HG?cdPage=2
But if you don't want to read that whole review + comments, I'll add here that Hape did not at that time seem to have limits on formaldehyde in the pressed wood in their toys (**more on this in a second), although we were fortunately able to remedy the issue with the kitchen. All of the Hape kitchen accessories that came with the kitchen were solid wood or plywood and didnt have an odor, so it will definitely depend on the individual item, I think. Hands down, Plan Toys is a better company in terms of toy safety (and environmental stewardship) but their price definitely reflects this, which is why we went with Hape on the kitchen.

** I did also want to add that: since writing this review, Melissa and Doug toys seem to have come into compliance with stricter formaldehyde regulations, according to their packaging, as I noted on a few items I looked at when shopping for this Christmas. Maybe enough of us complained so that it made a difference? Let's hope!

Perhaps other companies are following suit? I'd be tempted to call Hape and ask. If they aren't doing it already, asking these kinds of questions might push them to do the right thing sooner rather than later.
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