Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

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U.S. PIRG’S Trouble in Toyland finds dangerous toys on shelves during holiday shopping season

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

“No one should worry about whether or not the toy they’re buying is toxic or dangerous. But in 2018, we’re still finding hazards in some of the most popular toys. Toy manufacturers must do better to ensure their products are safe before they end up in children’s hands and mouths,” said Adam Garber, Consumer Watchdog for U.S. PIRG.

For more than 30 years, Trouble in Toyland has issued toy safety guidelines and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards to small children. Key findings from this year’s report include:

  • Hazardous Slime: A number of popular ‘slimes’ had toxic levels of boron, likely in the form of borax, up to fifteen times the European Union’s limit. According to the EPA, ingesting boron can cause nausea, vomiting, long-term reproductive health issues and can even be fatal.
  • Missing Online Choking Warnings: In a survey of five search pages for balloons sold on Amazon, U.S. PIRG found no choking hazard labels on 87 percent of the latex balloons marketed to parents of children under 2, an apparent violation of the law. Among children’s products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death.
  • Privacy-Invasive Smart Toys: The report also highlights a tablet with privacy concerns discovered by an investigation by the Mozilla Foundation. Every year, the potential for smart toys to expose private data becomes a more significant concern.

Given the popularity of slime, that class of toys was a primary focus.

“Boron is a potentially toxic substance that should not be ingested by children as it’s associated with negative effects in all body systems, said Dr. Daniel Rauch, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. “It is best that children avoid any exposure to ensure they are healthy and parents take appropriate action if it is ingested in any form.”  

While there are currently no limits on boron in children’s toys in the United States, U.S. PIRG called for placing warning labels on products and a full public hearing to determine safe levels of boron.  
“Regulators need to determine the appropriate health-based standards to protect children from boron in slime. In the meantime, we want parents to know the risks, so they can supervise their kids accordingly,” said Tano Toussaint, U.S. PIRG’s consumer watchdog associate.

In addition to identifying dangerous toys already on store shelves, U.S. PIRG provides a guide on how parents, grandparents and other caretakers can ensure toys are safe and stay updated on recalled toys at www.ToySafetyTips.org.