Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

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Meghan Hess

New Mobile Toy Tool Can Help Parents Shop Safe

PIRGIM Education Fund

ROYAL OAK, MI –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, PIRGIM Education Fund announced on Tuesday in its 24th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

The latest Trouble in Toyland report, along with a new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer – or – will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common hazards. 

And if toy buyers discover they have bought a dangerous toy, they can report it to U.S. PIRG using the new interactive website. Consumers should also report dangerous products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids,” said PIRGIM Education Fund Advocate Kara Rumsey. 

“And with our new, interactive tool, parents and other consumers can report toys they think are hazardous so we can investigate them and report them to the federal government,” she added.

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report and the interactive website – reachable from mobile phone or computer – focus on three categories of toy hazards: toys that may pose choking hazards, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates.

PIRGIM Education Fund noted that some progress has been made on toy safety in the past year, thanks to a new law overhauling the CPSC.

“But there’s no magic wand to fix the CPSC, and products won’t become safer overnight,” said Rumsey. “Restoring consumer confidence in the products we buy will take continued hard work on the part of the CPSC and responsible retailers and manufacturers.”

The findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland report highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect America’s children:

•    Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. Between 1990 and 2008, at least 196 children died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part.

•    Some toys tested exceeded 85 decibels sound level, which is the volume threshold established under American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss.

•    Earlier this year, toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Still, PIRGIM found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2%. 

•    Lead was severely restricted in toys earlier this year, but PIRGIM researchers found lead-laced toys on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body. One preschool book contained lead paint far above the new limits, and PIRGIM notified the CPSC. 

“We’re encouraged that Toys R Us stopped the sale of this particular book once we notified the CPSC of the lead paint violation,” Rumsey noted. “We hope we can continue to see this kind of progress in protecting kids from all toy hazards.”

But one store chain removing one book from its shelves is not enough to keep the country’s children from harm.

In fact, according to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 82,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2008. Nineteen children died from toy-related injuries that year. 

That’s why the PIRG federation developed the interactive tool – or – that allows shoppers to check on possible hazards, as well as report hazards they find.

For 24 years, the PIRGIM Education Fund Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children. It also provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. 

To download a pdf version of Trouble in Toyland, click here.