Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

Iowa PIRG Education Fund

Des Moines, Nov. 20 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Iowa Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning Iowa PIRG, joined by Mayor Cownie, Dr. Chande Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency at Blank Children’s Hospital, and Anne Garinger, coordinator with Safe Kids of Greater Des Moines, released the report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young 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.

The Trouble in Toyland report includes a list of dangerous toys that surveyors found on toy store shelves. For example, the list includes a dangerous magnet toy, a toy food set that is a choking hazard and a cell phone rattle that is harmful to little ears.

“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 Kramer McLuckie, Field Associate with Iowa PIRG

Dr. Vidya Chande, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Deparement at Blank Children’s Hospital, said, “We see children come in to the emergency room all the time from easily avoidable toy related injuries.”

For 27 years, the Iowa PIRG 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 interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smartphones at   

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys that contained phthalates, as well as toys with lead content above the 100 parts per million limit.
  • 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.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, no government agency tests all toys before they hit store shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” McLuckie concluded. “The message of today is clear. Parents have to stay vigilant.  We cannot and must not accept any weakening of our consumer and public health safeguards because they protect young children, America’s littlest consumers.”   

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Iowa PIRG, the State 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.