Arizona PIRG Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

Media Contacts
Diane E. Brown

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 22nd annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

“While we have seen progress after more than two decades of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, Arizona PIRG Education Fund researchers still found trouble in toyland on store shelves this month,” said Nick Theisen, representative for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Recent high profile product recalls have given us a chance to urge Congress to pass strong product safety reforms and give kids the best holiday gift of all.”

“It has been a tough year for toys and a tougher year for children and parents. Multiple recalls have kept parents on their toes. It is a time consuming and arduous task to ensure that all the toys your children use are safe. This is a perfect time of the year to carefully take another look at the toys your children currently use and make sure you still consider them safe. Toys that were once fine may have developed loose parts that can be choking hazards or you may find that your child’s favorite toy has been recalled. Choking on small parts still remains the greatest life threatening risk an inappropriate toy can possess to a child,” stated Dr. Rustin Morse, Associate Director, Emergency Department, Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children died from toy-related injuries that year.

For 22 years, the PIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s 2007 research focused on several categories of toy dangers: toys that pose choking hazards, toys with powerful magnets, toys that contain lead, and toys that pose strangulation hazards. Most of the recalls this year have been for hazards identified in previous editions of the report—small powerful magnets, choking hazards and toys with excessive levels of toxic lead, Theisen noted.

Among the findings of the 2007 Trouble in Toyland:

Lead in Toys and Children’s Jewelry: Children exposed to lead can suffer lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development and even death. In 2006, a four year old died of lead poisoning after he swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99% lead. Arizona PIRG Education Fund researchers went to just a few stores and easily found four children’s toys or jewelry containing high, actionable levels of lead. One piece of jewelry we found was 65% lead by weight, or over one thousand times current CPSC action levels.

“We have known for decades that lead poses serious health risks to children, yet consumers can still find lead-laden children’s jewelry and lead painted toys on store shelves,” continued Theisen.

Magnetic Toys: Toymakers have started using powerful magnets in building toys, magnetic jewelry and children’s playsets. If a child swallows more than one magnet, they can attract each other in the body and cause a bowel obstruction or life-threatening perforation. A 22-month old boy died in 2005 and many others have needed life-saving surgery after swallowing magnets. This year, the CPSC has recalled popular Mattel toys, including Barbie and Polly Pockets, for poorly designed magnets that fall out. Listed in the report are several examples of sloppily-designed or poorly-labeled magnetic toys found by researchers this fall.

Choking Hazards: In 1979, the CPSC banned the sale of toys for children younger than three if they contain small parts. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act required an explicit choke hazard warning on toys with small parts for children aged between three and six.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund found toys for children under three with banned small parts and toys with small parts for children under six without the required choke hazard warning.

Other toy hazards found this year included toys containing other toxic chemicals, excessively loud toys, and strangulation hazards.

“It doesn’t matter whether a toy is made in China or made in Kansas,” said Theisen. “Companies need to make sure that toys are safe.”

Theisen also reminded parents that the toy list in the Arizona PIRG Education Fund report is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves.

“Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before you make a purchase this holiday season and watch for further recalls,” Theisen concluded.