Arizona PIRG Education Fund Alerts Shoppers To Toy Hazards

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Diane E. Brown

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 21st annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

“While we can report substantial progress after more than two decades of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund still found trouble in toyland,” said Linsey Pecikonis, representative for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

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

“Even one toy-related death is too many, because these deaths are preventable,” continued Pecikonis.

“Choking hazards continue to be a significant health concern in young children and toddlers. Toys pieces, coins, and age inappropriate foods lead the list of choking hazards in children. This is a good time of the year to review the toys your children play with to ensure that no small parts from the toys can come off and be placed in your toddlers mouth. Little children are very fast and put everything into their mouths. It is not easy being a parent!” stated Dr. Rustin Morse, with Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The 21st annual PIRG Trouble in Toyland report offers 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 research focused on several categories of toy dangers: toys that pose choking hazards, toys with powerful magnets, toys that contain lead, and toys that are too loud.

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

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

• Children continue to choke on toys that meet the letter of the law. In September, Playskool recalled the Team Talkin’ Tool Bench after two children suffocated when the toy’s oversized plastic nails became lodged in their throats. Arizona PIRG Education Fund found several toys on store shelves that are shaped like corks or these toy nails that could pose similar suffocation hazards.

“Toddlers put everything in their mouths,” said Pecikonis. “CPSC should make the small parts test more protective of children under three and consider warning labels for toys shaped like corks or the toy nails that caused two children to suffocate,” continued Pecikonis.

Magnetic Toys
Toymakers have started using powerful magnets in building toys and magnetic jewelry. 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 little boy died last Thanksgiving and many others have had life-saving surgery after swallowing magnets from MEGA Brands’ Magnetix toys.

“Swallowing a magnet is not like swallowing a penny. Powerful magnets can wreak havoc inside the body,” cautioned Pecikonis.

MEGA Brands has modified the design of Magnetix and placed a label on the toy’s packaging warning parents about the dangers of magnets. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund called on CPSC to require a warning label on all magnetic toys that tells parents to seek immediate medical attention if a child swallows magnets.

Lead in Jewelry
Children exposed to lead can suffer delayed mental and physical development or even death. In February, a four year old died of lead poisoning after he swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99% lead. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund researchers went to just a few stores and easily found four items of children’s jewelry that contain high levels of lead, ranging from 1.8% lead to 34% lead by weight.

“We’ve known for decades that lead poses serious health risks to children, so it is unacceptable that consumers can still find lead-laden children’s jewelry on store shelves,” continued Pecikonis.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund called on CPSC to enact and enforce mandatory requirements for jewelry manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers to ensure their products do not contain lead.

Pecikonis 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 they make a purchase this holiday season,” Pecikonis added.