Parents Beware: Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

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New Mobile Toy Tool Can Help Parents Shop Safe

HARTFORD, Nov. 24 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group announced on Tuesday in its 24th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

The latest Trouble in Toyland report, along with a new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer – or – will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common hazards.

And if toy buyers discover they have bought a dangerous toy, they can report it to U.S. PIRG using the new interactive website. Consumers should also report dangerous products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids,” said ConnPIRG’s Jenn Hatch. “And with our new, interactive tool, parents and other consumers can report toys they think are hazardous so we can investigate them and report them to the federal government,” she added.

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report – and the interactive website reachable via mobile phone or computer – focus on three categories of toy hazards: toys that may pose choking hazards, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates.

ConnPIRG noted that while Connecticut’s first in the nation toy safety law, passed in the early 1990’s, was a model for today’s national standard for labeling, their continued work on this issue has proven one thing – labeling is not enough. “Parents must be vigilant to protect their children from those toys that sneak through our toy safety regulations,” said Hatch.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal added, “Toxic and treacherous toys can turn holiday celebrations into tragedies. Despite my successful fight for stronger standards, thousands of dangerous and deadly toys continue to slip through the federal safety net each holiday season — lead-laden, choking hazards and products with toxic phthalates. The continued rash of recalls and health hazards must be a stark reminder to parents about the need to be wary and watchful of dangers before buying toys. While parents are the first and last line of defense against dangers, my office will continue to work with federal authorities to monitor the market for dangerous and even illegal toys. Even the most innocuous appearing toys can be accidents waiting to happen — like balloons, among the most frequent killers.”

The findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect American’s children:

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. Between 1990 and 2008, at least 196 children died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part; three died in 2008 alone.
“One of the biggest dangers are the choking hazards that are so commonly found in many of the these toys,” said emergency medicine pediatrician Steven Rogers, MD, of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “These are very real threats that are clearly preventable injuries with the proper legislation and parental education.”
• Some toys tested exceeded 85 decibels sound level, which is the volume threshold established under American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss.

Earlier this year, toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Sarah Uhl, who works for Clean Water Action to coordinate the Coalition for a Safe & Healthy CT, noted that “Connecticut’s leadership on lead and phthalates helped pave the way for the federal toxic toy legislation. As Congress considers updating our nation’s broken chemical law, we can continue to pave the way toward phasing out the worst chemicals from consumer products and protecting the health of our most vulnerable citizens.”
• Still, ConnPIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2%.

• Lead was severely restricted in toys earlier this year, but ConnPIRG researchers found lead-laced toys on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body. One preschool book contained lead paint far above the new limits and ConnPIRG notified the CPSC.

“We’re encouraged that Toys R Us stopped the sale of this particular book once we notified the CPSC of the lead paint violation,” Hatch noted. “We hope we can continue to see this kind of progress in protecting kids from all toy hazards.”

But one store chain removing one book from its shelves is not enough to keep the country’s children from harm.

In fact, according to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 82,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2008. Nineteen children died from toy-related injuries that year. Connecticut’s Child Advocate, Jeanne Milstein added that “as the Chair of the Child Fatality Review Panel, I never want to do an investigation of a child who died from choking or playing with an unsafe toy. Prevention and awareness is key to avoiding tragedy.”

That’s why the PIRG federation developed the interactive tool – or – that allows shoppers to check on possible hazards, as well as report hazards they find.

For 24 years, the ConnPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.