Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

Media Releases

MASSPIRG Education Fund

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2018

For Additional Information:  Julia Seremba, (973)-444-8196, [email protected]


Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

MASSPIRG’s Trouble in Toyland finds dangerous toys on shelves during holiday shopping season

[Boston, MA] — This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. MASSPIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron in slime products and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues.

“No one should worry about whether or not the toy they’re buying is toxic or dangerous. But in 2018, we’re still finding hazards in some of the most popular toys. Toy manufacturers must do better to ensure their products are safe before they end up in children’s hands and mouths,” said Julia Seremba, Campaign Associate for MASSPIRG.

For more than 30 years, Trouble in Toyland has issued toy safety guidelines and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards to small children. Key findings from this year’s report include:


  • Hazardous Slime: A number of popular ‘slimes’ had toxic levels of boron, likely in the form of borax, up to fifteen times the European Union’s limit. According to the EPA, ingesting boron can cause nausea, vomiting, long-term reproductive health issues and can even be fatal.
  • Missing Online Choking Warnings: In a survey of five search pages for balloons sold on Amazon, U.S. PIRG found no choking hazard labels on 87 percent of the latex balloons marketed to parents of children under 2, an apparent violation of the law. Among children’s products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death.

“Balloons are common at birthday parties and around the holidays, but many parents may not know that that they also pose a significant suffocation risk in young children,” said Laura Arvidson-Guzman, MD, General Pediatrician at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. “Latex balloons, in particular, are a risk because they break apart easily, and the pieces can be accidentally inhaled. Children under 3 should never play with balloons, and children under 8 should not be blowing up balloons, particularly without adult supervision. It is important for parents to be aware of this potential danger so they can protect their children and families.”

“This year’s list highlights the potential dangers in items that are liquidy and may seem food-like to young children,” said Daniel Rauch, MD, Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. “These toys can contain toxic ingredients that are not meant to be eaten and can be very dangerous. Many parents tell their children not to play with their food; now they should also be telling them not to eat their toys.”

“Regulators need to determine the appropriate health-based standards to protect children from boron in slime. In the meantime, we want parents to know the risks, so they can supervise their kids accordingly,” said Seremba.

While there are currently no limits on boron in children’s toys in the U.S., the advocacy organization called for placing warning labels on products and a full public hearing to determine safe levels of boron.

“As a legislator, consumer, and as a father, I implore parents and relatives to be cautious when purchasing toys for their little ones. While regulations have come a long way to ensure the safety of the gifts that we give our children, gaps continue to exist that allow for toxics to exist in toys and for corporations to resist transparency in their policies on toxics. That is why I am grateful to groups like MASSPIRG who continue to lead the way in raising awareness of this potentially life-saving issue,” said Representative Jay Livingstone, of the 8th Suffolk District.

In addition to identifying dangerous toys already on store shelves, U.S.PIRG provides a guide on how parents, grandparents and other caretakers can ensure toys are safe and stay updated on recalled toys at www.ToySafetyTips.org.



MASSPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund, 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 special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.