Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Shopping Tips, Quiz Can Help Parents Shop Safe

NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

TRENTON,  Nov. 26 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group’s 28th 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.

NJPIRG’s report, released today at simultaneous press conferences in Trenton, Newark and Atlantic City, 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 Peter Skopec, NJPIRG Program Associate.

“Thank you to NJPIRG for using this time of year to highlight toy safety,” said John A. Brennan, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, and Executive VP of Barnabas Health.  “As an Emergency Room physician, I can tell you first-hand that unsafe toys can result in an emergency room visit for the child and parent.  It is vitally important that every toy be a safe toy and not present the risk of danger or harm to any child.”

For 28 years, NJPIRG’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 online quiz at 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. NJPIRG found several toys with high lead levels including a “Captain America” 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). NJPIRG also found an infant play mat from Lamaze with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a “Ninja Turtles” pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium. 
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, NJPIRG found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. 
  • Researchers 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.
  • Finally, NJPIRG once again discovered small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

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.

 “Today’s report proves that we must do more to keep our children safe, as potentially harmful toys are still available on store shelves across the country,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12). “At a time when too many in Washington are seeking to roll back basic public health and safety rules, I thank PIRG for their important work to ensure the safety of our children.”

“While we’ve made progress, 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 Skopec.  “Standards for toxic chemicals like lead and cadmium remain too weak, and enforcement needs to be beefed up.”

To download NJPIRG’s Toy Tips, the full Trouble in Toyland report and a list of dangerous toys found in stores, visit