Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s 30th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. Although progress has been made in toy safety, consumers need wary when shopping this holiday season, the group advises.
Laboratory testing on toys found toxic chemicals, including chromium and phthalates, which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injuries if swallowed.
“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe,” said Mike Litt, consumer advocate for U.S. PIRG. “However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys.”
For 30 years, the U.S. PIRG toy reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.
Key findings from the report include:
- Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Chemical testing was done at a lab that is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- The lab found the Fun Bubbles jump rope from Dollar Tree had 10 times the legal limit of the banned phthalate DEHP, tested at 10,000 ppm, and also had 190,000 ppm of the toxic phthalate DIBP. The commission has proposed a rule, which hasn’t been finalized, that would add DIBP to the list of banned phthalates.
- In preliminary tests, the lab also found high levels of the heavy metal chromium in three toys. U.S. PIRG believes it’s a cause for concern, and the group is calling on the commission to do further testing.
- The lab didn’t find any lead in the toys it tested. However, the commission has recalled some toys for lead violations this year, and lead could be found in other toys.
- Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of 3, U.S. PIRG found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. It found a fairy wand from Dollar Tree that has small parts that easily break off, but wasn’t labeled as a choking hazard.
- The group found inadequate warning labels in the Disney Pixar Cars Riplash Racers and Disney Planes from Marshalls; G2 Air Mini Football and a Disney Finding Nemo Dory figurine from Five Below; and a Nickelodeon Mermaid Dora the Explorer from Target. These products may have labels suitable for foreign countries, but they weren’t sufficient to meet U.S. standards.
- Small balls pose a hazard for young children who put objects in or near their mouths. U.S. PIRG found Magic Towels packaged as a small baseball and a small football at Dollar Tree which didn’t have the appropriate small ball warning label.
- Balloons pose the most serious choking hazard to children in the United States. All of the balloon packages examined did include the required warning label reading that children under 8 can choke on balloons and balloon parts. However, U.S PIRG found three balloon sets from Party City which included a second, confusing label indicating that the products are for children ages 3 and older: the Balloon Animal Kit, Mega Value Pack 16 Latex Punch Balloons, and Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs.
- The group also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s hearing. It found the Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels, Vtech Go! Go! Smart Animals, Vtech Spin & Learn Color Flashlight, Fisher Price Click n Learn Remote, and Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set from Target that, while they don’t violate federal standards, were found to be extremely loud at the ear and at a distance.
- U.S. PIRG continues to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. It found Sizzlers noise magnets from Family Dollar and Singing magnets from Dollar Tree that are “near-small-parts” which, while they don’t violate federal standards, are small enough to be swallowed and can cause severe internal damage.
Over the past seven years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market, Litt said. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.
Earlier this year, the commission began carrying out a ban on small, powerful toy magnets which is also an important step forward, he said, adding not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.
If a parent or caregiver identifies an unsafe toy, they should go to www.saferproducts.gov to report the potential safety problem to the commission.
“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect our youngest consumers from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Litt. “Also, the CPSC should finalize its rule to include other toxic phthalates like DIBP on its list of banned phthalates.”
U.S. PIRG is offering a 30th anniversary blog, which highlights its toy safety work over the past 30 years.
Parents can find a list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season at toysafetytips.org.