Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

Maryland PIRG Launches Campaign for More Protections against Choking Dangers

BALTIMORE, Nov. 23 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, Maryland Public Interest Research Group announced today in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

Maryland PIRG released its report, which reveals the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards, this morning, while announcing a new campaign calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to better protect children from choking dangers.

“Choking on small parts is a leading cause of toy-related injury, causing fifteen deaths in the last three years,” said Jenny Levin, Maryland PIRG Public Health Associate.  “We are concerned that the 30-year-old small parts standard is not protective enough.  Children can and have choked on parts that are larger than the standard,” she explained.

Maryland PIRG noted that progress has been made on toy safety in the past two years thanks to a 2008 PIRG-backed law overhauling the CPSC, as well as new leadership at the agency.

“The CPSC is doing a good job under its expanded authority, but that authority does not extend far enough when it comes to toxic chemicals,” said Levin. “We urge Congress and the Obama Administration to reform chemicals policy to address the tens of thousands of chemicals that are in the products our children come in contact with every day.”

Lauren Going, a concerned mom from Baltimore, said at the conference, “I want my daughter to have toys that are both stimulating and safe, but it’s impossible to know if a toy contains something toxic because there’s no requirement to test or label toys for toxic chemicals right now. I hope that more parents will find this information on avoiding unsafe toys, and I’m glad there are groups working to make all children’s products safer.”

Also joining Maryland PIRG was Dr. Anthony Caterina, M.D. from Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. “Accidents involving toys are quite common, but can be avoided. Especially during the holiday season, when children are getting new toys, it’s important for parents to check toys for safety. Toys with small parts, magnets, or toys that could contain toxic chemicals are not appropriate for small children who often put toys in their mouth.”

For 24 years, the Maryland PIRG’s 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.  The group also provides an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smart phones at

Key findings from the report include:

  • In 2009, many toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Still, Maryland PIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up 30%
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. In the past three years, 15 children have died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part; two died in 2009 alone.
  • Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but Maryland PIRG researchers found toys containing toxic lead and antimony on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body, and antimony is classified as a human carcinogen.  Laboratory testing revealed one preschool book with antimony far above the limits and Maryland PIRG has notified the CPSC.

According to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 250,000 children – 90,000 under the age of five – to emergency rooms in 2009. Twelve children died from toy-related injuries that year.