Survey Finds Toxic or Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

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Boston, MA—Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to MASSPIRG’S 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

MASSPIRG was joined by Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony, and Boston Children’s Hospital Dr. Lois Lee to release the report this morning. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children.  The survey also found toys that pose either choking or noise hazards.

“Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still a leading cause of toy-related injury. Between 1990 and 2009 over 200 children have died,” said MASSPIRG Consumer Associate Micaela Preskill. “While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead,” she explained.

For 26 years, MASSPIRG’s 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 smart phones at

Key findings from the report include:

• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Two toys contain levels of phthalates—a chemical that poses development hazards for small children—at 40 and 70 times allowable limits. Several toys violate current allowable lead limits (300ppm). Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body.

• 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 hearing standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

In 2008, Congress placed strict limits on concentrations of lead and phthalates in toys and children articles in a law that also gave greater authority and funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Preskill noted that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at

“As this report illustrates, not all toys are completely safe for all children,” said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “When shopping for toys parents should take the time to inspect the toy and read all labels to check the contents and materials that make up the toy.  Parents have to be vigilant consumers to insure that children are safe from hazardous or toxic toys.”

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it doesn’t test all toys on the shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Preskill concluded. “Our new Toy Tips explains the most common toy hazards and our mobile app.”

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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.