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Deafening call for new toy law

Health Canada is examining the way it tests noisy toys to make sure they aren’t damaging childrens’ tender ears.

Many toys seem to sing, shout, beep and wail at deafening decibels.

And the current testing method — holding a toy at an adult arm’s length — doesn’t reflect the reality that kids hold toys close to their ears, audiologists warn.

Noise-induced hearing loss is growing. Studies in the U.S. show 12.5% of children have hearing problems caused by noise in one or both ears.


“A number of elements of the (laws) for toys that make or emit sound are under review, including the sound emission limit, the parameters used to assess sound emissions and the test methodology,” Health Canada spokesman Paul Spendlove said.

The section of the Hazardous Products Act — which was drafted when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister — bans toys emitting noise levels exceeding 100 decibels. Audiologists say this level is too high.

A private members’ bill, introduced by Winnipeg NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, would see the act revised to allow 75 decibels as the maximum level.

“I was floored to hear that so many toys on the market are way above what the World Health Organization recommends,” Wasylycia-Leis said.

“It made me realize we’ve got a problem here in Canada and it shouldn’t take too much to fix it.”

“This bill will lead to the protection of the hearing health of millions of Canadian children,” said Ondina Love, Association of Speech Language Pathologists spokeswoman.

A lot of hearing damage caused in childhood is preventable, said Ottawa audiologist Karyn Bursch. “We’re putting hearing aids on younger and younger folks.”

Health Canada’s national consumer product safety program is reviewing the laws and their application, Spendlove said.