Georgia PIRG Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

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Georgia PIRG Education Fund


Atlanta, GA—Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 22nd annual toy safety survey released today by the Georgia Public Interest Research Group (GA PIRG).  

“While we have seen progress after more than two decades of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, PIRG’s researchers still found trouble in toyland on store shelves this month,” said GA PIRG’s Kris Klein. “But recent high profile product recalls have given us a chance to urge Congress to pass strong product safety reforms, and give kids the best holiday gift of all.”

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children died from toy-related injuries that year. 

For 22 years, the GA 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. 

PIRG’s 2007 research focused on several categories of toy dangers: toys that pose choking hazards, toys with powerful magnets, toys that contain lead, and toys that pose strangulation hazards. Most of the recalls this year have been for hazards identified in previous editions of the PIRG report—small powerful magnets, choking hazards and toys with excessive levels of toxic lead, Klein noted.

Among the findings of the 2007 Trouble In Toyland:

Lead in Toys and Children’s Jewelry: Children exposed to lead can suffer lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development and even death.  In 2006, a four year old died of lead poisoning after he swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99% lead.  PIRG researchers went to just a few stores and easily found four children’s toys or jewelry containing high, actionable levels of lead. One piece of jewelry we found was 65% lead by weight, or over one thousand times current CPSC action levels.

“We’ve known for decades that lead poses serious health risks to children, yet consumers can still find lead-laden children’s jewelry and lead painted toys on store shelves,” continued Klein. 

Magnetic Toys: Toymakers have started using powerful magnets in building toys, magnetic jewelry and children’s playsets.  If a child swallows more than one magnet, they can attract each other in the body and cause a bowel obstruction or life-threatening perforation.  A 22-month old boy died in 2005 and many others have needed life-saving surgery after swallowing magnets. This year, the CPSC has recalled popular Mattel toys, including Barbie and Polly Pockets, for poorly designed magnets that fall out. Listed in the report are several examples of sloppily-designed or poorly-labeled magnetic toys found by PIRG researchers this fall.

“Swallowing a magnet is not like swallowing a penny. Powerful magnets can wreak havoc inside the body,” cautioned Klein.

Choking Hazards: In 1979, the CPSC banned the sale of toys for children younger than three if they contain small parts.  The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act required an explicit choke hazard warning on toys with small parts for children aged between three and six.

U.S. PIRG found toys for children under three with banned small parts and toys with small parts for children under six without the required choke hazard warning. 

Other toy hazards found this year included toys containing other toxic chemicals, excessively loud toys, and strangulation hazards.

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, is a little agency with a big job it simply cannot do,” said Klein. “Congress needs to give it the tools it needs to do that big job better.”

Klein called on Congress to pass the strongest possible product safety reforms under consideration:

•    Congress should ban lead except at trace amounts. The PIRG-backed HR 3691, the SAFE Consumer Product Act, sponsored by Rep. DeLauro (Conn.)and 150 co-sponsors, would reduce all lead levels – in paint or in the product — to the level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 40 parts per million or 15 times less than the current allowable level of 600 ppm.

•    Congress should increase the budget and staffing of CPSC as much as possible. CPSC has only one toy tester and a tiny force of 15 inspectors to check millions of toys at hundreds of ports of entry.

•    Congress should require companies to guarantee that their products have been subject to independent third party testing before they put them on toy store shelves. Congress should also give CPSC more tools to punish companies that break the law. 

“It doesn’t matter whether a toy is made in China or made in Kansas,” said Klein. “Companies need to make sure that it is safe.”

Klein also reminded parents that the toy list in the PIRG report is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves.

“Shoppers should remember that no government agency tests toys. You should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before you make a purchase this holiday season, and watch for further recalls,” Klein concluded.