The recall of 45 million toys and other children’s products in 2007 and continued recalls in 2008 reminded Americans that no government agency tests toys before they are put on the shelves. Specifically, the wave of recalls focused attention on the fact that the agency charged with protecting Americans from unsafe products—the Consumer Product Safety Commission—is a little agency with a very big job to do. Congress responded by passing the first major overhaul of the CPSC since it was established during the Nixon Administration, when it passed the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008.1 In addition to expanding the agency’s budget, Congress gave the CPSC more tools to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable and speed recalls, moved toward banning toxic lead and phthalates except in trace amounts and greatly improved import surveillance.
While the new law strengthens the CPSC and contains tough new protections against toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates, these protections have not yet gone into effect. As parents and other toygivers venture into crowded malls this holiday season, they should remain vigilant about often hidden hazards posed by toys on store shelves.
The 2008 Trouble in Toyland report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.