30th Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s annual Trouble in Toyland report. The 30th survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including chromium, which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

“Parents and other consumers should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Jenifer Wong, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

For 30 years, the State PIRG’s Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children, and provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. Over the years, the group’s reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund had chemical testing done at a lab which is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
    • The group found the Fun Bubbles jump rope from Dollar Tree which had 10 times the legal limit of the banned phthalate DEHP (tested at 10,000 ppm), and also had 190,000 ppm of the toxic phthalate DIBP which has not yet been banned. However, the CPSC has proposed a rule which has not been finalized that would add DIBP to the list of banned phthalates. 
    • In preliminary tests, the group also found high levels of the heavy metal chromium in three toys. The high content of chromium in the products found doesn’t necessarily mean that they violate the law. The group believes it is a cause for concern, and calls on the CPSC to do further testing.
    • Positively, while the CPSC has recalled some toys for lead this year, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s tests did not find any violations. While the group believes this is a sign of progress, they caution it does not mean that lead cannot be found in other toys.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, the group found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. The group also found inadequate warning labels on toys including Disney Planes and a Nickelodeon Mermaid Dora the Explorer. According to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, these products may have labels suitable for foreign countries, but they were not sufficient to meet U.S. standards.
  • Balloons pose the most serious choking hazard to children in the U.S. All of the balloon packages found did include the required warning label reading that children under eight can choke on balloons and balloon parts. However, three balloons included a second, confusing label which indicated that the products are for children ages three and older: the Balloon Animal Kit, Mega Value Pack 16 Latex Punch Balloons, and Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs.
  • The group also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s hearing including the Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels, Fisher Price Click n Learn Remote, and Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set that, while they don’t violate federal standards, were found to be extremely loud at the ear and at a distance.
  • And the Arizona PIRG Education Fund continued to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. While Sizzlers noise magnets don’t violate federal standards, the group said they are small enough to be swallowed and can cause severe internal damage.

Over the past seven years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates. Earlier this year, the CPSC implemented a ban on small, powerful toy magnets which is also an important step forward. However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

“No child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy – our decision makers need to do more to protect young children from the hazards of unsafe toys,” said Wong.

Parents and other consumers can find the list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at toysafetytips.org.