Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Emily Rusch

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

Online Shopping Tips Can Help Parents Shop Safe

CALPIRG Education Fund

Los Angeles, California – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to CALPIRG Education Fund’s 29th annual Trouble in Toyland report. 

The survey of hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Diane Forte, CALPIRG Education Fund Consumer Spokesperson.

For 29 years, the CALPIRG 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. 

“During the holiday season, the most important thing parents need to remember is ‘supervise your child,’ ” says Alan Nager, MD, MHA, director of Emergency Medicine and Transport at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “The holidays are a fun and exciting time, but the environment can be potentially dangerous due to new and reachable objects like holiday plants, electrical cables, new toys and festive beverages. Keep a watchful eye on your child and be on the lookout for possible hazards.” 

Key findings from the report include: 

• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys containing phthalates well over legal limits, as well as toys with lead or chromium content above limits. For example, we found a police Badge Play Set in which two of the four badges included tested positive for toxic lead above the legal limits. 

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available that still pose choking hazards. For example, we found Edushape 80 Pieces Textured Blocks had pieces that are too small for young children.

• We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing. For example, one of the loud toys that we found was the John Deere Monster Treads Combine.

• We continued to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. For example, we found Buckyballs magnets for sale online, even though they were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Over the past six years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s September ban on small, powerful toy magnet sets is also an important step forward. However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

“Parents should avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens,” concluded Diane Forte. “Without such a policy, Walgreens does not play an active role in ensuring the safety of the products it sells. Instead, Walgreens leaves it up to manufacturers and suppliers to ensure the safety of products.” 

Finally, today is Cyber Monday. “We also urge parents to watch for hazards when shopping for toys on the web,” concluded Diane Forte. “Our report includes unsafe toys found in dollar stores, big box stores and online.”

To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, click here

Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at

staff | TPIN

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