Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

TRENTON, Nov. 20 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to New Jersey Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning NJPIRG, joined by New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and Mary Jo Abbondanza of St. Francis Medical Center, released the report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young 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.

The Trouble in Toyland report also includes a list of dangerous toys that surveyors found on toy store shelves. The list includes a dangerous magnet toy, a bowling game that is a choking hazard and a cell phone rattle that is harmful to little ears.

“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 Peter Skopec, Program Associate at NJPIRG.

“Often parents may have expectation that if a toy is being sold in a store or online it must have been inspected for safety, however, that is not always the case,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “I thank NJPIRG for bringing potential health hazards in toys to consumers’ attention so they can make informed choices about the gifts they buy for children.”

For 27 years, the NJPIRG 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 smartphones at

“As a nurse who worked in the pediatric ICU for a number of years, I can tell you that there is nothing worse than looking into the eyes of a distraught parent,” said Abbondanza. “We must be sure that toys don’t pose hazards to our children and grandchildren.”

“As a Pediatric Emergency physician, I am well aware of emergencies involving babies, children and toys, particularly during the Christmas holiday,” said John A. Brennan, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. “I commend NJPIRG for bringing attention to this important topic and for helping all of us become aware of toys that have the potential to harm children.”

Key findings from the report include:

Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys which contained phthalates, as well as toys with lead content above the 100 parts per million limit.

  • 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.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, no government agency tests all toys before they hit store shelves. Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Skopec concluded. “The message of today is clear. Parents have to stay vigilant. We cannot and must not accept any weakening of our consumer and public health safeguards because they protect young children, America’s littlest consumers.”

A simultaneous press conference was held to release the new report at the New Jersey Children’s Hospital in Newark. NJPIRG Organizer Cat Iribarne presented the report’s findings there, joined by Dr. Brennan and by Margaret Anastos of the Division of Consumer Affairs.