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Survey finds toxic or dangerous toys on store shelves

November 25, 2011

Online Staff Report

CHICAGO — Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Illinois Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) 26th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report.

Nov. 22, Illinois PIRG, joined by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Kids in Danger, released the report at Children’s Memorial Hospital. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found toys that pose either choking or noise hazards.

Brian Imus, state director for Illinois PIRG, explained: “Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still a leading cause of toy-related injury. Between 1990 and 2009, over 200 children have died. While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals, including lead.”

Madigan added: “We have made tremendous progress to ensure that the recall process is more effective. But as this report indicates, we still find dozens of children’s products every year that pose serious risks to children. That’s why it’s critical that consumers take advantage of resources like Trouble in Toyland to ensure they’re making safe holiday purchases.”

Schakowsky said: “Though the Consumer Product Safety Commission has made strides in recent years to address the issue of toy safety, parents should be mindful, especially during this holiday season, that not all toys on the shelves today are safe. Unintended injuries are the leading cause of death for young children. We must ensure that deadly toys never make it into our homes and into our children’s hands.”

For 26 years, the Illinois PIRG’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 interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smart phones at www.toysafety.mobi.

Key findings from the report include the following:

* Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Two toys contain levels of phthalates — a chemical that poses development hazards for small children — at 40 and 70 times allowable limits. Several toys violate current allowable lead limits (300ppm). Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body.

* Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children younger than 3, the report found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.

* The report also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the hearing standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

In 2008, Congress placed strict limits on concentrations of lead and phthalates in toys and children articles in a law that also gave greater authority and funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Imus noted that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at saferproducts.gov.

Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, said: “The database at Saferproducts.gov is an amazing resource for parents. For the first time, parents can learn about problems with toys even before the product is recalled or PIRG finds it in their testing each year. We urge parents to use the database to report problems they have with children’s products as well — it may save another child from injury.”

Imus concluded: “Parents and toy-givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it doesn’t test all toys on the shelves. Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards. Our new Toy Tips explains the most common toy hazards and our mobile app.”

To download a pdf version of Toy Tips or Trouble in Toyland, visit www.illinoispirg.org.

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