Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Shopping Tips 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 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 Sean Doyle, ConnPIRG Campaign Organizer.

For 29 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.
“Choking hazards, toxic components and ear-piercing sounds in toys for sale across the country can turn a joyous holiday into a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.  “I will continue to stand with ConnPIRG and consumer advocates in efforts to ensure that federal regulators do all they can to ensure the safety of children’s toys, particularly with regard to eliminating exposure to phthalates and toxic metals, which can lead to long-term developmental and health effects.”

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, a badge playset and a toy tambourine.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. For example, we found a foam block set marketed for small children with pieces that are clearly too small yet the set is not labeled.
  • We also found numerous toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing. For example, small cell shaped toys like the Leap From Chat and Count Smart Phone, labeled for kids as young as 18 months.
  • We continued to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

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.

“Unfortunately, the federal government and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have not gone far enough to restrict toxic chemicals in toys,” said Anne Hulick, the coordinator for the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut. “It is unacceptable that chemicals linked to cancer, impaired brain and nervous system development and hormone-disruption are frequently found in toys and other children’s products.”

Dr. Steven C. Rogers, an attending physician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center emergency department notes that “Over 250,000 children were treated in emergency departments for toy related injuries last year.  The most deadly injuries are usually due to choking hazards like small toy accessories intended for older children.  These injuries are preventable so as parents we need to make sure our children are safe this holiday season.”

An easy way to check is something might be a choking hazard is to use a common item found in every household: “if something is small enough to fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is a choking hazard” says Dr. Scott Schoem, Division Chief, Otalaryngology.

Shopping at the right stores can also make a difference.  “Parents should also avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens,” stated Doyle. “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.  Our report includes unsafe toys found in dollar stores, big box stores and online.”

To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, visit  Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at