Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Diane E. Brown

Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Dangerous toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s annual Trouble in Toyland report.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children.  The survey also found toys that pose either choking or noise hazards.

“Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still a leading cause of toy-related injury. Between 1990 and 2009 over 200 children have died,” said Michelle Hobar, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.  “While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead,” Hobar explained.

For 26 years, the 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.  The group also provides an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smart phones at
Key findings from the report include:

  • •    Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. The group found toys containing levels of phthalates – a chemical that poses development hazards for small children – at 40 and 70 times allowable limits. Several toys were found to violate current allowable lead limits (300ppm). Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body.
  • •    Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, the group found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.
  • •    Researchers also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the hearing standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

In 2008, Congress placed strict limits on concentrations of lead and phthalates in toys and children articles in a law that also gave greater authority and funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  Hobar noted that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it does not test all toys on the shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could pose hazards,” Hobar concluded. “The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Tips explains the most common toy hazards and our mobile website.”