Annual Report Informs Parents of Dangerous Toys

Nov 21, 2012

The United States Public Interest Research Group has released its 27th annual report detailing unsafe toys and how parents can protect their children from dangerous products on store shelves. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Yesterday, the US PIRG Education Fund Released the 27th annual Trouble in Toyland Report. Across the country, coordinators discussed the report, shared safety guidelines for consumers purchasing toys for young children and provided examples of toys on store shelves that could present safety hazards.

At Berkshire Community College, MASS PIRG campus coordinator Caroline Webster said that the number one hazard for small children is choking, and that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is frequently recalling toys from store shelves.

Webster displayed a jar of small toy foods. To fit federal standards, small toys for children under the age of 3 years must fit certain dimensions. She said parents can be safe by placing any small toy in a toilet paper tube – if it doesn’t fit through, it’s safe.

Parents can use a cardboard toilet paper tube to determine if a toy presents a choking hazard.
Credit WAMC

US PIRG says that the enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008 gave the CPSC the ability to strengthen federal guidelines on toy safety. But, at her presentation, Caroline Webster showed an example of a toy backpack that MASS PIRG confirmed in testing that backpack was made with toxic chemicals called phthalates….

In Washington state only, any toy containing phthalates must be labeled for the consumer. However, under federal guidelines, any toy containing 1000 ppm of the group of six chemicals are unfit for sale. The US Environmental Protection Agency says that phthalates can cause reproductive and in-utero developmental defects.

And as a third example, Webster showed a toy that could cause hearing damage in small children, a toy remote car starter.

Webster warned that any toy that produces sound exceeding 65 decibels can cause hearing damage.

But for parents who may not know if a toy contains toxic chemicals or is too loud, US PIRG has released a free smartphone app where consumers can find information on popular products. They also warned that toys with magnets are inappropriate for small children, and against the dangers of lead in toys.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield also spoke at the meeting. She stressed the need for adequate funding for regulators to ensure that consumers and their children are protected.

Bouvier was referring to the New England Compounding Center, a pharmacy linked to a fungal meningitis outbreak that has sickened and killed patients in several states.

USPIRG's smartphone app is available here:

More information on the Consumer Saftey Protection Commission:

The full report is available here: