Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Media Contacts
Andrew Fish

Boston, Dec. 2 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to MASSPIRG’s 29th 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, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of small toys that pose a choking hazard, loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and powerful 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, MASSPIRG Campaign Organizer.

For 29 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.

”Some toys, like bikes and scooters, or baseball bats or toy airplanes that fly, cause injuries that we can predict—which helps us prevent them,” said Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. ”But some toys are dangerous in ways that we might not think of.  Some toys are even dangerous in ways we couldn’t possibly know by looking at them. This report helps us be aware of those dangers—and make the safest choices for our children.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys with lead or chromium content above limits. For example, the “Jake and the Neverland Pirates Tambourine,” contains 580 ppm chromium, almost 10 times the standard of 60 ppm.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available online which still pose a choking hazard. For example, we found a piece of the Edushape Textured Blocks, meant for children 2 and older, that did not pass the choke tube test.
  • We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing, like the Leap Frog Chat & Count Smart Phone for children labeled 18 months and older.
  • We continued to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. For example, we were able to purchase a set of small magnet spheres online from Zen Magnets.


From left to right: Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, Andrew Fish, MASSPIRG Consumer Advocate, and State Representative Jay Livingstone.

Over the past six years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s September ban on small, powerful toy magnet sets is also an important step forward.

”I commend the MASSPIRG Education Fund for being vigilant of potential risks for children all over, and with the holidays approaching, I urge all parents and relatives to heed these warnings and take caution when making their gift selections,” said State Representative Jay Livingstone.

Caution is warranted, as not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

”Parents should avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens,” said Fish. ”Without such a policy, Walgreens does not play an active role in ensuring the safety of the products it sells. Instead, Walgreens leaves it up to manufacturers and suppliers to ensure the safety of products.”

”Finally, yesterday was Cyber Monday. We also urge parents to watch for hazards when shopping for toys on the web,” concluded Fish. ”Our report includes unsafe toys found in dollar stores, big box stores and online.”

The full Trouble in Toyland report is available at

Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at

MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group is a statewide non-profit, non-partisan organization that takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our wellbeing.