25th Annual Trouble in Toyland Report: Toxins and Choking Hazards Still A Problem in Many Toys
Maryland Public Interest Research Group warns parents to shop carefully.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recently released its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report, and in it the group warns parents to be aware of potentially hazardous toys as they shop this holiday season.
The report reveals the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards.
"Choking on small parts is a leading cause of toy-related injury, causing fifteen deaths in the last three years," said Jenny Levin, Maryland Public Interest Research Group's Public Health Associate, in the company's press release. The Maryland PIRG is one of the Federation of State PIRGs, and these make up the U.S. PIRG.
"We are concerned that the 30-year-old small parts standard is not protective enough. Children can and have choked on parts that are larger than the standard," she explained.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's small parts regulation regulates what sized parts are considered safe for children of different ages.
The report singles out a handful of dangerous toys, but cautions parents that inadequate labeling means they must be vigilant, and closely monitor all toys for potential risks. For example, Levin said toys -- such as a train set by Haba -- could be problematic because of a small piece of red of wood that comes with the set.
"A 1-year-old child nearly choked on this toy, and the mother had to perform the Heimlich maneuver," Levin explained.
Mumbles & Squeaks Toy Shoppe in Ellicott City no longer carries Haba toys. Owner Edward Williams points out that when buying for a child you should always keep in mind that a younger sibling will probably get a hold of the item too. Make sure that toys are safe and age-appropriate for everyone in the household.
"What you want to look for is if there is an older brother who is playing with the construction set. Make sure the little brother isn't around without supervision because there are some small parts he can choke on," Levin confirmed.
Williams added that he keeps a testing device at the shop to show people the dangers of too-small parts.
There are also concerns about toys that contain harmful toxins, including phthalates, lead, cadmium, PVC and antimony.
"Mumbles and Squeaks requires all manufacturers to provide us with a certificate of compliance to meet all national and international safety standards" regarding lead and other toxins, Williams said.
Parents are encouraged to read labels and talk with store owners. Their expertise and insight might help protect children.
According to the Maryland PIRG, their Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children for 24 years, and provides examples of toys that pose potential safety hazards.
Key findings from the report include:
- In 2009, many toys and other children's products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Still, Maryland PIRG found children's products that contained concentrations of phthalates up 30 percent.
- Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. In the past three years,15 children have died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part.
- Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but Maryland PIRG researchers found toys containing toxic lead and antimony on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body and is especially dangerous to the developing brain of a child. Antimony is classified as a human carcinogen.
Among the toys singled out as harmful in the report:
Product Name: Princess Expressions Tiara and Jewelry set
Manufacturer: Almar Sales
Product Name: Monkey in Banana
Manufacturer: Play Pets
Product Name: Dora the Explorer backpack
Manufacturer: Global Design Concepts
Product Name: Bright Stars travel book
Product Name: Wild Ranger Toy Gun
Manufacturer: POLYFECT, INC
Product Name: Lokmock /Baby's first train
Product Name: Let's Get Building! Construction Playset (Handy Manny Big Construction Job)
Manufacturer: Fisher Price
Find the entire report, which includes a full list of toys, in the attached .PDF file.
Most of these toys are manufactured for and purchased by the big box stores, so independent stores such as Mumbles and Squeaks do not carry them. A quick perusal of Toys R' Us in Columbia did not locate any of these items on the shelves and a search of Target.com did not turn up any of the toys on this warning list either.
However, internet-only retailer eToys.com carries the Dora backpack with a recommended age of five to eight, noting that the manufacturer's recommended age is three and up.
Maryland PIRG's mission notes that the group is "an advocate for the public interest. When consumers are cheated, or our natural environment is threatened, or the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by special interest lobbyists, Maryland PIRG speaks up and takes action."
Find more information on Maryland PIRG online.