Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Shopping Tips, Quiz Can Help Parents Shop Safe


CONTACT: Andrew Fish, Program Associate

Phone: (617) 747-4383

Email: [email protected]

Boston, Nov. 26 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to MASSPIRG’s annual Trouble in Toyland report.  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 Andrew Fish, Program Associate with MASSPIRG.

For 28 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 a Facebook 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.

Maria McMahon is the Trauma Center Manager at Boston Children’s Hospital and Director of Safe Kids Massachusetts. “Playing with toys is one of the best parts of being a kid.  Unfortunately in 2011, over 260,000 children sustained a toy-related injury serious enough to visit an emergency room.  It’s important for parents to be proactive and pay close attention to toy safety guidelines to ensure their child is safe while at play,” McMahon said.

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. 

“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 Fish.  “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, click here.


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MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts 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.