32nd annual ‘Trouble in Toyland’ survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Expert tips can help parents shop safely

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season. In some cases, retailers are ignoring explicit government safety regulations, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 32nd annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping for children’s gifts.

The report exposes fidget spinners full of lead, inadequately-labeled toys, balloons that pose a choking hazard, and data-collecting toys that may violate children’s privacy and other consumer protection laws.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for children’s presents,” said Dev Gowda, Toxics Advocate with U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

For more than 30 years, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children, and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. Through the years, PIRG reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.

“Some recalls are not well-publicized, so parents should check their homes for previously recalled toys. Also, keep in mind that recalled toys may still be available online,” said Donna Bucciarelli, RN, Beaumont Children’s trauma prevention coordinator.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Lead: PIRG found two fidget spinners from Target which PIRG said had high levels of lead, well over the federal legal limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products. PIRG tested for lead at a lab which is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Small Parts: Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, PIRG found several toys that contain small parts, but do not have any warning label at all.
  • Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product.
  • Data-Collecting Toys: As toymakers produce more and more products that are part of the “Internet of Things,” data collection and the sharing of consumer information become greater concerns.

“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 Gowda. “The CPSC, manufacturers, and retailers should classify all fidget spinners as children’s products and hold them to federal lead limits. It’s simple common sense. And to prevent children from being exposed to lead-laden toys in the future, the CPSC needs to revise its loose and arbitrary regulations for determining the age range of a product.”

Even though many hoverboards have been taken off store shelves over the past year, they continue to pose dangers to children. Earlier this year, two young girls and a firefighter tragically died in a house fire believed to be caused by a charging hoverboard that was overheated. Just last month, another house fire was believed to be caused by a hoverboard. Numerous hoverboards continue to be recalled by the CPSC for faulty battery packs.

In a victory for consumers, the CPSC in October issued a final rule prohibiting children’s toys and child care articles containing more than 1,000 ppm of five additional phthalate chemicals. U.S. PIRG Education Fund has been calling on the CPSC to ban these phthalates for several years and applauds the CPSC for its new rule. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics such as polyvinyl chloride, and certain phthalates have been linked to altered development of the male reproductive system, early puberty, and cancer.

Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards.

PIRG recommends parents:

  • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencie
  • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips
  • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC
  • Review the recalled toys in this report and compare them to toys in your children’s toy boxes
  • Remember, toys on PIRG’s list are presented as examples of potentially-dangerous toys; the list is not exhaustive and other hazards may exist
  • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach; regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths
  • Eliminate small magnet hazards from your home
  • Be aware that toys connected to the Internet, as well as apps and websites, may be collecting information about children inappropriately; learn more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
  • Make sure that the hoverboards you own contain a UL2272-certification sticker from the product-testing group Underwriters Laboratories; even UL2272 compliance cannot guarantee that a hoverboard will not overheat or catch fire

U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.