Trouble in Toyland: Annual report on dangerous toys warns of toxic chemicals, hidden hazards

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Posted at 6:55 AM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 12:32:26-05

Kids love slime and other toys, but the annual Trouble in Toyland report is concerned about some slime products, unlabeled choking hazards and smart toys that may give out your children's personal information and location to other companies.

For 34 years, the Florida PIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland reports have provided a guide to protect children from dangerous toys.

Toy dangers you can identify

Choking hazards

The report recommends testing a product to see if it poses a choking hazard before handing it over to your child.

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"While toys are supposed to be labeled when they contain small parts, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation found 64% of surveyed toys on Amazon did not have the same warning labels displayed on another major website," the report said.

Loud Noises

The report says toys that are too loud can hurt a child's hearing. They recommend testing the toy first to see if you think it's too loud, and if it is you can remove the batteries or cover the speaker with tape to muffle it.

Toys intended for teens or adults

Fidget spinners and other focus devices were found to have excess lead levels in 2017, according to the report. The report recommends avoiding "focus tools" for young children.

"Toys marketed to adults may not be held to the same safety standards as children’s products, containing higher levels of lead or posing a choking hazard," the report says. "And yet, many such products are marketed to children, including versions designed to look like Captain America’s shield or a Transformer."

USP Toyland Report Nov19 by wftsweb on Scribd

Hidden Hazards

The report also discusses toxic chemicals and cybersecurity hazards.

According to the report, an investigation earlier this year found a xylophone sold on Amazon that contained almost four times the federal legal limit of lead.

"Our past research found 300 times the allowable level of lead in fidget spinners," the report says. "Children under six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can impair mental and physical development, especially since children may swallow chips of lead-based paint or ingest the toxin by sucking on a toy."

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The report also says testing revealed levels of boron exceeding European Union safety standards in four out of four slimes tested. They recommend using alternative, homemade recipes for slimes.

The report also tells parents to pay close attention to the privacy setting of "smart toys," that in the past have been found to record children's voices or keep histories of the data they entered.

Toy Association responds

"U.S. PIRG uses the headline “Trouble in Toyland” for its annual report to needlessly frighten parents with baseless claims. What PIRG doesn’t tell you (because it would not grab headlines) is that toys continue to be one of the safest consumer product categories found in the home.

U.S. toy safety requirements include more than 100 standards and tests to ensure that toys are safe. These standards go above and beyond those for other consumer products. There are strict limits for lead and other chemicals in toys, internationally-emulated limits on sound level output, a highly effective small parts regulation that was developed with the help of pediatricians, and strict standards prohibiting the use of magnets in any toy part that is small enough to be swallowed.

Many of the items PIRG speaks of are not available, having been previously recalled (thanks to ongoing regulatory vigilance). The group also mentions several items that are not toys, such as: children’s jewelry and musical instruments, magnets, and balloons. These products are not subject to the same rigorous standards as toys and including them under a “toy” safety headline deliberately misleads parents and undermines the toy industry’s deep and ongoing commitment to safety.

The Toy Association works year-round to educate parents and caregivers to always shop at reputable stores and verified online retailers and to exercise caution when buying toys from flea markets, unverified sellers on online marketplaces, garage sales, etc., as these vendors may not be monitoring for recalled products or might not be selling legitimate toys that comply with strict U.S. laws.

Families are encouraged to always check and follow the age-grading on toy packaging. Toys labeled 3+ may contain small parts that can be a choking hazard for children under three (or kids who still mouth toys). Use a federally-approved Small Parts Tester (available online) to test small objects found around the home – not a toilet paper roll (as PIRG suggests).

Safety is the toy industry’s top priority every day of the year, not just during the holidays. For information on recalls, toy safety, and ways to ensure safe play, families are invited to visit, The Toy Association’s safety resource for parents and caregivers."