Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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MASSPIRG Education Fund

Boston, MA–Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning MASSPIRG, joined by Dianne Lawton of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, 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 also includes a list of dangerous toys that surveyors found on toy store shelves. The list includes a dangerous magnet toy, a bowling game 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 Nick Fiore, Consumer Associate for MASSPIRG.

Dr. Lois Lee, MD, MPH, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, said, “It is important for parents to do their homework about the safety of toys for their children before heading out to the stores for holiday shopping.  The Trouble in Toyland report is a useful reference for parents in this regard.  Also, parents should read the labels on the box and inspect the toys as much as they can looking for potentially hazardous substances as well as small parts or parts that might break off and become a choking hazard.”

For 27 years, the MASSPIRG 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 which 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 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,” Fiore 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.” 

Download our Toy Tips or the full Trouble in Toyland report.

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MASSPIRG Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, and educate the public.
MASSPIRG takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.