Shoppers Warned of Hazardous Toys

11-23-05 - On the eve of the busiest shopping season of the year, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) is warning parents about hazardous toys that may contain toxic chemicals, are potential choking hazards or are too loud.

In their 20th annual report "Trouble in Toyland" released Tuesday (11/22) the U.S. PIRG warns parents to be vigilant when buying toys for young children this holiday season. Alison Cassady, research director with U.S. PIRG, says most toys are safe, but parents need to read the toy's label, test it to make sure it doesn't have small parts and check to see if there are any warnings about it.

"For parents and consumers about to embark on their holiday shopping missions we have a few tips. Remember PIRG reports only provide examples of toys on store shelves that may pose hidden hazards. Parents should remain vigilant when they are shopping. Parents can get a copy of our tips for toys safety site "" Also parents should report any unsafe toys or injuries to CPSC."

Cassady advises parents test their children's toys with a choke-test tube or a cardboard toilet paper roll. If a part fits inside the tube, then it isn't safe for young children. The group also advises parents to check for any parts that can easily come off.

Some names that top the list are familiar ones like balloons for young children. Others are newer gadgets like yo-you water balls. Both are described as potential choking hazards. U.S. PIRG has even recommended that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ban yo-yo water balls across the country. The United Kingdom and Canada have already banned that toy, and the state of Illinois is the first in the United States to ban it as well. U.S. PIRG says the liquid-filled balls are dangerous because the stretchy cord that it is attached to could easier choke a child who might be swinging it around their heads.

The non-profit, non-partisan organization is also warning parents about excessively loud toys that can harm a child's sensitive ears. Cassady says some electric guitars, like the pink one from Wal-Mart used as an example, can expose children to high levels of noise if held at close range. She says at close range 117 decibels is powerful enough to harm a
child's hearing in 20 seconds.

U.S. PIRG is also warning parents about toys that are made with toxic chemicals like play cosmetic sets that include nail polish containing chemicals like toluene and xylene. The group warns about phthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften otherwise hard plastic material that is used in numerous products. Since young children tend to put their hands in their mouths, any chemical on their skin offers a direct route of exposure. Cassady says some manufactures have mislabeled their products to say they are phthalates-free when in fact many do have detectable levels of the chemicals. U.S. PIRG is working with the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the products' labeling.

"Now numerous scientists across the county documented the potential health effects of exposure to phthalates. Particularly in the womb, crucial stages of childhood development. These health effects include things ranging from reproductive defeats to early onset puberty to even cancer."

U.S. PIRG says it does not test all toys and Cassady advices parents to examine toys carefully and look for potential dangers before making a purchase.

You can find the full report by going to