Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

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Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

CALPIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland finds dangerous toys on shelves during holiday shopping season

CALPIRG Education Fund

Los Angeles, CA (November 20, 2019) — This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. CALPIRG Education Fund’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron in slime products and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues.

“No one should worry about whether or not the toy they’re buying is toxic or dangerous. But in 2018, we’re still finding hazards in some of the most popular toys. Toy manufacturers must do better to ensure their products are safe before they end up in children’s hands and mouths,” said Emily Rusch, executive director for CALPIRG Education Fund.

“Every year without fail, we see preventable injuries in the Emergency Department as a result of toy-related mishaps,” said Alan L. Nager, MD, MHA, director of Emergency and Transport Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “With holiday shopping season now upon us, it’s up to parents to thoroughly assess the toys on the market and to supervise children as they play with toys, especially those with small parts that can lead to choking.” 

For more than 30 years, Trouble in Toyland has issued toy safety guidelines and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards to small children. Key findings from this year’s report include:

●      Hazardous Slime: A number of popular ‘slimes’ had toxic levels of boron, likely in the form of borax, up to fifteen times the European Union’s limit. According to the EPA, ingesting boron can cause nausea, vomiting, long-term reproductive health issues and can even be fatal.

●      Missing Online Choking Warnings: In a survey of five search pages for balloons sold on Amazon, CALPIRG Education Fund found no choking hazard labels on 87 percent of the latex balloons marketed to parents of children under 2, an apparent violation of the law. Among children’s products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death.

●      Privacy-Invasive Smart Toys: The report also highlights a tablet with privacy concerns discovered through an investigation by the Mozilla Foundation. Every year, the potential for smart toys to expose private data becomes a more significant concern. 

“Regulators need to determine the appropriate health-based standards to protect children from boron in slime. In the meantime, we want parents to know the risks, so they can supervise their kids accordingly,” said Tano Toussaint, Consumer Watchdog Associate at U.S. PIRG and a co-author of the report.

While there are currently no limits on boron in children’s toys in the U.S., the advocacy organization called for placing warning labels on products and a full public hearing to determine safe levels of boron.

In addition to identifying dangerous toys already on store shelves, CALPIRG Education Fund provides a guide on how parents, grandparents and other caretakers can ensure toys are safe and stay updated on recalled toys at www.ToySafetyTips.org.