Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves Shopping Tips, Quiz Can Help Parents Shop Safe

by Jenny Levin, US PIRG on November 27, 2013

Washington D.C., Nov. 26 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 28th 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, cadmium, and phthalates, all of which can have serious adverse health impacts on the development of children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and 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 Jenny Levin, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate.

For 28 years, the U.S.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. The group also provides a Facebook quiz to help educate parents and others about toy-related hazards.

Key findings from the report include:

• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found several toys with high lead levels including a toddler toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead (2900 ppm), and play jewelry for children with 2 times the legal limit (200 ppm). We also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a child’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium.
• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.
• We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
• We discovered small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

Over the past five years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Improvements made in 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) tightened lead limits, phased out dangerous phthalates, and required independent third party testing. However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

“The CPSIA gave new authority to the CPSC to protect children from unsafe products. Mandatory toy standards, lower led limits, independent third party testing, and increased port inspections stop more dangerous toys than ever before from reaching toy shelves,” stated Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel at Consumer Federation of America. “Parents and all consumers should have more confidence in the products they may own or consider purchasing but should also continue to do the right research to select the safest and most appropriate gifts for the children on their gift lists. Manufacturers should ensure they comply with the law. Continued CPSC enforcement and adequate funding is necessary to further protect our nation’s children.”

Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the CPSC who attended the event, stated, “Toys are safer now than they have been in the past. Seizures of defective toys at U.S. ports are up. Nearly 10 million units of toys have been stopped at ports over the past five years. These were potentially dangerous toys that did not make it into our stores or into the hands of children.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect America’s kids from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Levin. “Standards for toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium and phthalates remain too weak to protect kids from potentially dangerous exposures.”

To download our Toy Tips or the full Trouble in Toyland report, click here.

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U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.

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