Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Shopping Tips Can Help Parents Shop Safe

NMPIRG Education Fund

Albuquerque, NM, Dec. 2 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to New Mexico Public Interest Research Group’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, extremely 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 Jacob Peters.

For 29 years, the New Mexico PIRG 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.

“We must always put our children’s interests first when it comes to regulating toys and anything that can be harmful,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “It is also vital that we continue to educate parents about which toys are age appropriate for our children as they grow and which toys present potential hazards. I encourage all those shopping for children this holiday season to take a moment to read NMPIRG’s recommendations and warnings for toys.”

Key findings from the report include: `

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys containing phthalates well over legal limits, as well as toys with lead or chromium content above limits. For example, we found toy sheriff’s badges that exceeded the allowable lead standard of 90 ppm for paints or coatings.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. For example, we found these toy blocks with online labeling for children two and up, which contained banned small parts. 
  • We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing. For example, we found a toy phone is excessively loud.
  • We continued to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. For example, we found these ellipsoid magnets that are not illegal, because they are just barely larger than the small parts cylinder.  If they did fit, they would be banned in toys for children under 14 (fourteen), yet this toy – which is a near small part – is labeled “eight and up.”

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. However, 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,” concluded Jacob Peters. “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.”

To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, click here. Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at and

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 NMPIRG, the New Mexico 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 well-being.