Many doctors, nurses and asthma educators advise parents to remove stuffed toys from the bedroom of children with allergies and asthma. Additional advice such as wash them regularly and avoid toys with fabrics that have harsh chemicals is also given. This leaves parents in a dilemma and confused when deciding which toys are suitable to buy for children. The asthma & allergy friendly logo program was set up to tackle this issue.

Stuffed toys are an established reservoir for house dust mites. The relationship between house dust mite allergens and asthma has been comprehensively reviewed and published in reports from the 'International Workshops in Allergens and Asthma'. The Workshops' participants were experts invited from around the world to discuss prior research in this field, to formulate recommendations for allergen-specific management of asthma, and to consider future research directions.

The report of the 3rd International Workshop in Indoor Allergens and Asthma declares that “appropriate standards for products marketed for allergen avoidance, should be developed by industry or consumer agencies”. The allergen avoidance market is ever enlarging but “currently there is little or no regulation governing claims.”

Increasingly to improve textile performance a number of chemicals are now used in the industry. It is recognized that respiratory tract disorders and certain skin problems can be affected by a number of factors with chemical exposure triggering symptoms by both irritant and / or allergic mechanisms. Therefore, it is important in assessment to analyze these chemical parameters as well as house dust mite allergen hosting characteristics.

Unfortunately allergy awareness knowledge can often not be acted upon when making purchase choices or other consumer decisions. Manufacturers may use such claims as “hypo-allergenic”, “non-allergenic” or “allergen free” to target particular individuals but there is frequently an absence of substantiating testing data or standard standardized testing requirements. The consumer is vulnerable to the emotional appeal of such unsubstantiated claims.

Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is an international standards and certification body that has developed testing methodologies to identify the performance criteria and suitability specifications of products for people concerned about allergies, asthma and issues related to indoor air quality.

ASL's independent certification standards and have been written in consultation with industry, retailers and health care professionals and are the only standards that are accepted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The certification process for toys utilizes a range of recognized and proprietary scientific techniques to asses toys for exposure to allergen proteins and irritant materials both at the time of purchase and thereafter when in use.

Certification means that toys must meet all of the following criteria:

* Comply with national safety legislation for style and age range in the countries where they are sold.

* Product is subjected to further material tests to ensure that the toys do not have properties that are likely to irritate both asthma and allergy symptoms in susceptible people.

* In order to maintain the safety and health of the child toys are subjected to the additional tests for textile processing and finishing chemicals suspected or known to have a potential to cause allergic or irritant reactions. The testing protocols specify the maximum content of these chemicals and dyes allowed. The limits specified are based on present knowledge and scientific research into the safety of chemicals used in the toy and textile industry. Because research is ongoing these limits will be kept under continuing review.

* Allergen accumulating within the stuffed toy must be removable by washing in a washing machine. The rate of house dust mite allergen accumulation in a toy item under defined conditions must be determined.

* Before and after the recommended delayed washing procedures, toys must meet or exceed the most stringent applicable international legal restrictions / direct standards for quality and safety.

Allergens will accumulate at different rates and, therefore, the frequency of the recommended physical cleaning procedure is going to vary from toy to toy. The care will provide consumers with more accurate and reliable instructions on maintaining low levels of allergens within a particular toy's useful life.

The development of standards is in association with research by Airmid Healthgroup ltd, a life sciences company dealing with indoor air health solutions. The AHG examination of products spans a wide aspect of discriminates all relevant to indoor particulate contaminants, ranging from virology, microbiology, mycology, endotoxin, and allergen and also including dust mite and bed bug research.

ASL and its medical and scientific advisory board remain free from any commercial conflict of interest that may influence the exclusivity of the asthma & allergy friendly ™ certification process. The granting, maintenance, and renewal of the certification will be afforded only to those products that comply with regulations and relevant criteria prescribed by ASL.

The independent third party certification process has been adopted by a number of patient advocacy groups and foundations across the world including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, The Asthma Society of Canada and Asthma UK.

Follow up research has shown the program is providing a real educational benefit at the point of purchase and the logo program and labeling practice is being supported by an increasing number of retailers including Toys R Us and Target.