Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Jon Fox

Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

CA:PIRG Education Fund

San Francisco, CA, Nov. 20 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to  the California Public Interest Research Group’s (CALPIRG) 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning, CALPIRG released the report, joined by Dr. Michael Cabana, Division Chief of General Pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and director of the General Pediatrics Fellowship Program at UCSF Pediatrics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing and toy magnets that can cause serious injury.

The Trouble in Toyland report also includes a list of dangerous toys that surveyors found on toy store shelves. The list includes a potentially dangerous magnet toy, a bowling game that is a choking hazard, and a key chain rattle that may be harmful to little ears.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. Unfortunately we can’t and until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate for CALPIRG.

“The Trouble in Toyland report alerts parents and consumers to the dangers of high-powered magnets, such as those sold in sets of 100 or more, and the life-threatening gastrointestinal injuries they can cause when swallowed.”  He continued, “The rising number of magnet injuries in children and teenagers suggests that the sale of high-powered magnets should be prohibited.  In the meantime, the best defense against high-powered magnet ingestion and a trip to the emergency department is to make sure they are not present where children, live, visit or play.”

For 27 years, CALPIRG’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 smartphones at  

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys which contained phthalates, as well as toys with lead content above the 100 parts per million limit.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.
  • We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
  • We discovered small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, no government agency tests all toys before they hit store shelves. Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Jon Fox concluded. “The message of today is clear. Parents have to stay vigilant.  We cannot and must not accept any weakening of our consumer and public health safeguards because they protect young children, America’s littlest consumers.”  

To download our Toy Tips or the full Trouble in Toyland report, click here.

For more information, conatact:

Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate

Office: (415) 622 0039 x309


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U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.