Dangerous toys shown at the Trouble in Toyland demonstration. The police badge set has lead paint that exceeds the federal limits.
As the holiday season is upon us, parents rush to find the perfect gift for their children. Amid the overflowing shelves lie dangerous toys that expose children to metal poisoning, hearing loss and possible death from choking.
USPIRG has released the 29th Annual Trouble in Toyland report to provide tips to help parents shop for safe toys. The consumer protection group held a press conference demonstrating the dangers of toys at the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Safety Center
“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe,” said OSPIRG campaign organizer Alice Morrison. “However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys.”
The report found toys with high levels of toxic substances such as lead and phthalates were on the shelves despite federal regulations limiting the level of exposure. Morrison held up a set of shiny toy sheriff and police badges that exceeded the allowable amount of lead in the external paint.
Dr. Mark Buchholz, pediatric critical care and emergency medicine physician at Randall Children’s Hospital spoke about the importance of keeping children away from choking hazards.
"Children are innocent, they are very curious and they will put essentially anything and everything in their mouths," Buchholz said.
Choking hazards are defined as toys or small parts of toys that can fit into an official choke test cylinder, which has an interior diameter of 1.25 inches. Morrison said that children have choked on larger toys and suggests parents use an empty toilet paper roll to test for choking hazards.
Choking hazards are the leading cause of toy recalls, with 86,500 products being pulled from stores, according to Morrison.
In addition, button batteries and small magnets are choking hazards that can do internal damage to a child if ingested. Button batteries that get stuck in the esophagus can erode the tissues and small magnets can tear the intestines if they attract each other through the intestinal wall, according to Buchholz.
"The message is clear, we need to protect our youngest consumers from the danger of unsafe toys,” Morrison said. “Parents and caregivers should look out for common hazards when shopping for toys this holiday season.”
When shopping for toys this season, check www.toysafetytips.org to see the toys reviewed in the Trouble in Toyland report. OSPIRG also has tips for parents regarding toys they already own:
• Remove small batteries from toys and keep them out of reach of children.
• Remove batteries from or tape over the speakers of toys that are too loud.
• Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Also, regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.
Oregon State legislator Alissa Keny-Guyer wants stronger laws against the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg, these laws do not cover all products," Keny-Guyer said, referring to a Dora the Explorer backpack that isn't regulated as a toy, but has a decorative plastic panel with 200,000 parts per million phthalate level, when the legal limit for toys is 1000 ppm.
"In addition, there are many chemicals that are known to be hazardous to our health and yet there is no prohibition against using them," Keny-Guyer said.
Keny-Guyer is working in the legislature to pass a bill which will have more broad and strict standards against using toxic chemicals in consumer products. The legislator hopes that the law will connect policy with analysis.
"We know from research that a lot of these chemicals that are listed in my bill, the Toxic Free Children's Act, cause these developmental delays and chronic disease," Keny-Guyer said. "We need to make sure we do policy that connects with the science."
To see the list of toys found to be dangerous: www.toysafetytips.org
To report dangerous toys: www.saferproducts.gov