A survey by a state research firm contends there are still dangerous or toxic toys to be found on America’s store shelves.
According to California Public Interest Research Group’s (CALPIRG) 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 effects 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 Diane Forte, CALPIRG Consumer spokeswoman.
For 29 years, the CALPIRG “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.
“During the holiday season, the most important thing parents need to remember is ‘supervise your child,’” says Alan Nager, MD, MHA, director of Emergency Medicine and Transport at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“The holidays are a fun and exciting time, but the environment can be potentially dangerous due to new and reachable objects like holiday plants, electrical cables, new toys and festive beverages. Keep a watchful eye on your child and be on the lookout for possible hazards.”
Key findings from the report include:
• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Researchers found toys containing phthalates well over legal limits, as well as toys with lead or chromium content above limits.
• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, there were found toys available that still pose choking hazards. For example, the Edushape 80 Pieces Textured Blocks.
• Also found were toys potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing. An example is the John Deere Monster Treads Combine.
• Small, powerful magnets continue to pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.
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.
“Parents should avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens,” Forte said. “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.”
Forte went on to say that parents should watch for potential hazardous toys while shopping online, and that unsafe toys were also found in dollar stores and big box stores.
The complete report can be downloaded at http://www.calpirg.org/reports/caf/trouble-toyland-2014. Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at toysafetytips.org.
CALPIRG is a statewide nonprofit, non-partisan organization. It can be reached at www.calpirg.org.