2007 Unsafe Toys Report Released

Group Lists More Than 60 Toys Deemed Hazardous to Small Children

By Todd Zwillich
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 20, 2007 -- With the nation's attention focused on toy safety, consumer groups are once again warning of potentially hazardous products on store shelves this shopping season.

A report issued by the watchdog organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found 60 toys that are unsafe for small children because of choking, noise, or other hazards. Some of the toys also contain toxic lead or other potential chemical dangers, the group said.

The report criticized the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has been under fire from Congress. Lawmakers are debating bills now to give the agency more authority to keep potentially unsafe toys out of stores.

Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG's consumer program director, warned parents that the CPSC does not have the resources to regulate the toy industry.

"It's up to you to examine toys carefully, look for hazards, and make sure the toys you bring to your family are safe," he told reporters.

Toys highlighted in U.S. PIRG's report include:

  • Bob the Builder doll, made by Learning Curve/RC2, which has small parts that could be a choking hazard
  • Safari Magnetic Marbles, made by Safari, Ltd., which has magnets that can be dangerous if swallowed
  • A number of Curious George dolls, manufactured by Marvel Toys, containing lead.

"These toys are just unacceptable, and we hope they're unacceptable to the CPSC," Mierzwinski said.

The toys reflect the hazards cited by the U.S. PIRG in its study: lead in toys and children's jewelry, magnets, and choking hazards. Children exposed to lead can suffer development delays and mental problems. Magnets, used in building toys, jewelry, and play sets, can cause a bowel obstruction or life-threatening perforation if they become fused in a child's body.

Action in Congress

Congress is debating at least two bills that could boost the CPSC's regulatory authority and increase fines and other penalties against companies producing or importing unsafe toys. Toy makers -- including giants like Mattel --  faced a firestorm earlier this fall when millions of children's toys containing lead paint had to be recalled.

The CPSC's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, also touched off controversy when she told lawmakers in Congressional testimony that the agency did not need more authority to regulate toy safety.

CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese tells WebMD that the agency has "stepped up" its toy recalls. But she says parents should use a "back-to-basics" approach to making sure the toys they buy are safe.

"Parents should be armed with knowledge. They should read labels on toys -- they're there for a reason -- but don't just read the label, heed the warning," she says.

Toy makers have been "testing, massively retesting toys on the store shelves and in the supply chain so that consumers can be confident," Joan Lawrence, vice president of the Toy Industry Association, tells WebMD. The group represents more than 500 toy makers, importers, and distributors. She says the industry is coming up with a new "protocol for testing" for toy manufacturers and importers.

Meanwhile, Congress is likely to translate the public's attention to toy safety into new legislation.

"Congress is determined to act before the Christmas season," says Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

With reporting by Miranda Hitti.

SOURCES: Trouble in Toyland, 22nd Annual Survey of Toy Safety, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Nov. 20, 2007. Ed Mierzwinski, director, consumer programs, U.S. PIRG. Julie Vallese, spokeswoman, Consumer Product Safety Commission. Joan Lawrence, vice president, Toy Industry Association. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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