Parents Beware – Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

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Brad Ashwell

Florida PIRG Education Fund

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

All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg hosted Florida PIRG’s annual toy safety event this year. Florida PIRG’s consumer advocate, Brad Ashwell was joined by Senator Charlie Justice and Dr. Ricardo Jimenez, All Children’s Specialty Physician in Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

The latest Trouble in Toyland report, along with a new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer – – 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 Florida PIRG’s Brad Ashwell.

“With this 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,” Senator Justice added.

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report – and the interactive website reachable from 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.

Senator Charlie Justice noted that some progress has been made on toy safety in the past year, thanks to a new federal law overhauling the CPSC. But more has got to be done.

“There’s no magic wand to fix the CPSC, and making products safer won’t happen overnight,” said Senator Justice. “Restoring consumer confidence in the products we buy will take continued hard work on the part of the CPSC and responsible retailers and manufacturers.”

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.
  • 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. Still, Florida PIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2%.
  • Lead was severely restricted in toys earlier this year, but Florida PIRG 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 Florida PIRG 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,” Ashwell 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.

“Even one toy related injury is too many because these injuries are easily preventable,” said, Dr. Ricardo Jimenez, All Children’s Specialty Physician in Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

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

For 24 years, the Florida PIRG 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.

To download a pdf version of Trouble in Toyland, click here.

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Florida PIRG, the Florida 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.