Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Media Releases

Shopping Tips, Quiz Can Help Parents Shop Safe

ConnPIRG Education Fund

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group’s 28th 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, cadmium, and phthalates, all of which can have serious adverse health impacts on the development of 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 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, especially around the holidays,” said Sean Doyle, ConnPIRG Associate.

Senator Richard Blumenthal notes that, ““Toxic, hazardous toys can turn holiday joy to tears and tragedy. Better informed parents can avoid injuries and emergency room visits if they use toy safety common sense and caution. This report is a tremendous resource for smart gift givers– when facts give them the power to protect. Stronger, stiffer enforcement is the ultimate answer to stopping dangerous toys in all seasons.”

For 28 years, the ConnPIRG 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 online quiz to help educate parents and others about toy-related hazards. 

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found several toys with high lead levels including a toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead (2900 ppm), and play jewelry for children with 2 times the legal limit (200 ppm). We also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a child’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium. 
  • 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.

Over the past five years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market.  Improvements made in 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.  However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

Unfortunately, these safety net holes are also due to the inadequacy of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act,” said Anne Hulick, RN, MS, JD Coordinator of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT.  “Under this law, there is virtually no requirement to prove that a chemical is safe before it is used in products.  The sad reality is that many children’s products and toys have chemicals linked to cancer, learning and behavioral disorders and endocrine disruption.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect America’s kids from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Doyle.  “Standards for toxic chemicals like lead and cadmium remain too weak, and enforcement needs to be beefed up.”

But there are other hazards out there.  Dr. Steven C. Rogers, an attending physician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center emergency department urges parents to, “think safety first when buying toys for young children, by picking toys that have no small parts for kids under 3 years old, inspecting the toys to ensure that there are no straps, strings or cords  greater  7 inches that could pose a  choking or strangulation hazard, and finally, actively supervise young children when they play with their toys.””

Finally, Sarah Eagan, the State Child Advocate notes that “As we move into the joyous holiday season and beyond, we must remember that helping children stay healthy, happy and safe is all of our responsibility.  To that end, let’s work together in providing the latest education and tools to our parents, caregivers and communities so that they can make the best choices for their children’s toys”