Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Shopping Tips, Quiz Can Help Parents Shop Safe

Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Director
Office: 410-467-9389
Cell: 859-221-4213

Joanna Guy, Maryland PIRG Program Associate
Office: 410-467-9389
Cell: 607-227-8731

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, Nov. 26 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Maryland Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report which was released in Baltimore at Sinai Hospital, and in Annapolis at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, and phthalates, all of which can have serious adverse health impacts on the development of 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 if swallowed. 

“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 Emily Scarr of Maryland PIRG.

“The last thing a parent wants to worry about is that their child’s favorite holiday gift could be the cause of an illness,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Five years ago, Congress took a big step toward safer toys with the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, but there is much more to be done. Maryland PIRG’s report underscores the challenges parents face as they purchase toys for their kids and the common-sense protections that could go a long way toward keeping our children safe and healthy.”

“This year’s Maryland PIRG report shows that our current laws and efforts to stop dangerous toys are having a positive impact. But the continued prevalence of unregulated toxic chemicals in children’s toys should be a red flag for us all,” said Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, “Parents have a right to know when their children are exposed to these potentially dangerous chemicals and the state has a responsibility to protect them.”

For 28 years, the Maryland 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 online quiz to help educate parents and others about toy-related hazards.
Key findings from the report include:

•    Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found several toys with high lead levels including a toddler toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead (2900 ppm), and play jewelry for children with 2 times the legal limit (200 ppm). We also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a child’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium.
•    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.

Over the past five years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market.  Improvements made in 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.  However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

Delegate Ariana Kelly added, “Thanks to the work of Maryland PIRG and my colleagues in Annapolis, we’ve banned 5 different toxic chemicals from children’s products in the last 5 years. But there’s more work to be done and it’s time for comprehensive reform to keep dangerous chemicals out of our children’s products entirely.”

Dana Silver, M.D., a pediatrician at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai explained, “We must be careful not to let the excitement of children receiving new toys during the holidays overshadow safety. Before allowing kids to play with new toys, parents should inspect them to make sure that they are not too loud, have parts that are too small, include magnets and/or contain other potential hazards that could endanger children, no matter what their age is.”

Dr. Deborah Wood, the founding Director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum explained at the Annapolis press conference, “Toys can support play, which helps a child make sense of the world and enables him to have an impact on it. It’s a little scary if we adults can’t promise that toys are safe things for children.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect America’s kids from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Scarr.  “Standards for toxic chemicals like lead and cadmium remain too weak, and enforcement needs to be beefed up.”

To download our Toy Tips or the full Trouble in Toyland report, visit the Maryland PIRG website. Or click here for tips.
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Maryland PIRG, the Maryland 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.