35th annual Trouble in Toyland report uncovers mislabeled and dangerous toys

Media Contacts
Rishi Shah

As holidays near, spotlight on eight toy hazards to avoid during gift-giving, sheltering-in-place

Maryland PIRG Foundation

BALTIMORE —  Maryland PIRG Foundation’s Trouble in Toyland report has helped identify dangerous toys for 35 years. But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children have become more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards. 

“This has been an incredibly difficult year, and parents and caregivers are overwhelmed. They might do a quick search online for a toy to entertain their kids and trust that manufacturers and online vendors are guaranteeing their safety. This isn’t always the case, so parents need to be on guard,” said Rishi Shah, Associate with Maryland PIRG Foundation. 

Because of the pandemic, many parents are working from home while trying to keep kids of multiple ages busy with safe activities they can perform without supervision. This can be a daunting task. Our researchers found that many toys have hidden dangers or missing warning labels and playthings such as magnets, balloons and smaller toys can be deadly if they fall into younger children’s hands.  

Here are some of the main categories from this year’s findings:

Choking Hazards: From small parts included in toy sets, to game pieces, many toys are not safe for children 2 years old or younger. This year’s report uncovered multiple examples of choking hazards that either lack a proper warning online or don’t have the mandatory warning label on the packaging. 

Loud Noises: Incredibly noisy toys played on repeat aren’t just annoying. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sounds with decibel levels of more than 80 can cause potential hearing damage in children, and noises between 100 and 120 decibels can cause damage if they last more than one minute. Our researchers found a toy fire truck for sale on Amazon noisy enough to potentially damage a kid’s hearing. 

High-Powered Magnets: Magnets of all types have posed risks to children for years. Some are part of toy building sets aimed at children as young as 3 years old, although some children that age don’t know not to eat or inhale them. And some magnets aren’t intended for kids; they’re more like fidget toys for adults, who can use “recreational” magnets to create shapes or figures. 

Recalled Toys: Maryland PIRG Foundation researchers found three separate recalled toys for sale on eBay, and in two cases, found full pages selling the recalled products. 

“Unfortunately, the injury risk of some toys only becomes clear to us after a child suffers an adverse event,” said Tia Medley, M.D., pediatrician for MedStar Health in Baltimore. “We don’t want to see children in the emergency rooms. It is the responsibility of all of us to consider the risk potential when buying, receiving or gifting toys. Make sure the toy is age appropriate. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls and be wary of old or second hand toys.”

“The pandemic has led to more unsupervised play for children of all ages,” concluded Shah. “Because of this, prevention is the best medicine! To protect your children, do your homework and make sure dangerous products don’t get into your house in the first place.


Maryland PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful interests that threaten our health, safety, and wellbeing.