‘Trouble in Toyland’: Survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves

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) 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 Dev Gowda, advocate with Illinois PIRG.

For 29 years, the Illinois 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.

In the years we have worked on this issue together, it is gratifying to see more testing and evaluation of toys and children’s products, along with a more effective recall process in place,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “But unfortunately, as this report shows, hazardous children’s products are still far too readily accessible. This report remains an important resource in identifying dangerous products to ensure a safe holiday season of giving.”

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said: “As the holiday shopping season continues, this report gives parents and loved ones valuable information about the safety of children’s products. Since the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008, toys and other consumer products have become much safer, but the Trouble in Toyland report shows that there is more to do.”

Elizabeth Powell, M.D., MPH, Emergency Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital, said: “Choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children aged 3 years or younger. Food, coins, and toys are the primary causes of choking-related injury and death.”

Key findings from the report include the following:

Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Toys were found containing phthalates well over legal limits, as well as toys with lead or chromium content above limits. For example, Hello Kitty toy hair clips from JoAnn Fabrics had five times the limit of the phthalate DEHP, and a toy tambourine and sheriff’s badges from Dollar Tree exceeded the limits for chromium and lead, respectively.

Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children younger than 3, toys were found available in stores that still pose choking hazards. For example, party favors from Dollar Tree contained small parts and was unlabeled as a choking hazard.

Toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing were found on shelves. For example, the Leap Frog Chat and Count Smart Phone and Dora the Explorer Lights & Sounds Trike from Walmart were extremely loud and could potentially harm a child’s ears.

Small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed were also found. For example, Sizzlers noise magnets from Toys “R” Us are small enough to be swallowed and can cause severe internal damage.

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.

Each year, parents get vital safety information from the ‘Trouble in Toyland’ report that helps them choose toys wisely at the holidays and throughout the year,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, a non-profit organization.

Gowda added: “Parents should avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens. 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.”

I thank PIRG for this report and for its decades of leadership on this issue,” Schakowsky said. “I will continue to work with PIRG and other consumer advocates to make sure unsafe products are kept off of store shelves.”

Gowda concluded: “Finally, Monday was Cyber Monday. We also urge parents to watch for hazards when shopping for toys on the web. Our report includes unsafe toys found in dollar stores, big box stores and online.”

To download the full “Trouble in Toyland” report, go to www.illinoispirg.org. Parents can find a list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at toysafetytips.org.

Posted Dec. 4, 2014

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