From Our 2011 Archives

Consumer Group: Dangerous Toys Are on Store Shelves

U.S. Public Interest Research Group Says Some Toys Have Choking Hazards and Other Risks

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 22, 2011 -- Though toy makers have made major safety strides in recent years, many hazardous toys can still be found on store shelves or online, a consumer watchdog group says in a new report.

Toys with small parts are choking hazards, and some toys contain toxic chemicals, including lead, according to the report, "Trouble in Toyland," by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

According to the report, many toys are too loud and could lead to hearing damage. Others may pose choking risks, including balloons, which cause more choking deaths than any other product for kids.

The organization did not rank toys in terms of degree of danger, but listed nine as potentially toxic for containing lead or chemicals called phthalates:

  • Funny Glasses, manufactured by Joking Around, due to phthalates.
  • Sleep Mask, made by Claire's, for phthalates.
  • Little Hands Love Book, made by Piggie Toes Press, for lead.
  • Whirly Wheel, manufactured by LL, for lead.
  • Spritz Medals, manufactured by Spritz, for lead.
  • Hello Kitty eyeshadow/keychain, Hello Kitty/Sanrio, for lead.
  • Tinkerbell Watch, Disney Fairies, for lead.
  • Peace Sign Bracelet, Family Dollar, for lead.
  • Honda motorcycle, Honda, for lead.

Choking Hazards

PIRG listed 12 toys or types of toys as posing choking hazards:

  • Wooden blocks set, manufactured by ToySmith.
  • Sesame St. Doll Oscar, made by Sesame Workshop.
  • Dinosaur multi pack, distributed by Greenbrier International Inc.
  • HABA fruit in a bag, made by HABA.
  • Green rubber grape, made by iwako.
  • Orange bear, 4M2U.
  • Flat baby blocks and square counting blocks, distributed by Greenbrier International.
  • 4 dollar box items, manufactured by Rhode Island Novelty.
  • Small balls, varying manufacturers.
  • Play ball x2, made by Sqishland.
  • Unlabeled Bin toys -- balls and marbles of varying manufacturers.
  • Ball cross-bow, manufacturer not listed.

The report warned that various balloons, especially those promoting infant birthdays and iconic toddler characters, posed danger for kids under age 8.

As for toys that pose noise hazards, PIRG listed three toys:

  • Elmo's World, Talking Cell Phone, Fischer-Price.
  • Victorious Stereo Headphones, manufactured by Nickelodeon.
  • Hotwheels, Super Stunt RAT BOMB, made by Hotwheels.

Toy Industry Comments

In anticipation of this year's PIRG list, the Toy Industry Association issued a statement on Nov. 14 warning that some groups frequently attack toys as unsafe, unhealthy, or dangerous but that such claims often are "unsubstantiated" and "needlessly frighten parents."

But PIRG officials, and Robert Adler, commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, say the new report was the result of laboratory testing and a survey.

"Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still the leading cause of toy-related injury," PIRG's Nasima Hossain says in a news release. He notes that more than 400 children died of toy-related injuries between 1990 and 2010, and that more than half of the fatalities were due to choking on small parts, balloons or balls.

"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," she says.

The report lists its key findings as:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves -- up to 70 times the allowable limits of phthalates, a chemical that may pose developmental risks for small children.
  • Despite Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards concerning small parts in toys for children under 3, PIRG reports it found toys on shelves that still pose choking hazards.
  • Also, one toy was found that exceeded the hearing standards recommended by the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.

Hossain notes in the news release that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at saferproducts.gov.

"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," Hossain says. "The message of today is clear. We cannot, must not, weaken the most basic safety rules that protect young children, America's littlest consumers."

The full report can be found at uspirg.org.

SOURCES: News release, U.S. PIRG.Trouble in Toyland, 26th Annual Survey of Toy Safety, November 2011, U.S. PIRG Education Fun.News release, Toy Industry Association, Nov. 14, 2011.

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