Just a few days before Black Friday signals the beginning of holiday shopping fury, the U.S. Public Interest Group has released its 27th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report, alerting consumers to the dangers and toxins that can still be found in children's toys.
The biggest concerns are toys containing chemicals that are potentially toxic, or that contain choking, strangulation or noise hazards.
While U.S. PIRG -- a non-partisan consumer advocacy group -- does not test every toy sold in stores, it takes random samples and has them laboratory tested to check for acceptable levels of toxic substances or other hazards.
A Dora the Explorer guitar, dragster cars with small wheels and finger-fidget desktop magnets are among the toys that consumer advocates are warning about as the holiday buying season begins.
In its annual "Trouble in Toyland" report, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group examined more than 200 toys on store shelves at major retailers and dollar stores and found about a dozen that could be dangerous to children.
The Dora guitar was too loud, the group said Tuesday, and tested slightly above the limit that hearing experts recommend. The dragster car had small rubber traction bands on the wheels that could be a choking hazard, and a too-tiny warning label.
Compared to previous years, lead and other toxins were less a concern, thanks to a 2008 product safety law that ushered in stricter limits on metals and chemicals in toys. Instead, much of the focus was on small magnet toys and jewelry.
PIRG cited government estimates of 1,700 emergency room visits between 2009 and 2011 involving the ingestion of high-powered magnets. Most of the cases involved children between 4 and 12 years old. Older children have accidentally ingested the balls while trying to mimic tongue piercing. The magnets, such as the ones in the popular Buckyball desktop toys, can cling together if swallowed, pinch internal tissue and lead to serious injuries.
Over the past twenty-seven years, the U.S. PIRG report has identified hazards in toys and children’s products that could cause acute injuries, from small parts that pose a choking hazard, to strangulation hazards from cords on pull toys, to laceration hazards from edges that are too sharp, to toxic hazards posed by chemicals in toys. Our report has led to at least 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped us educate the public and policymakers on the need for stronger public health and consumer safety standards and for stronger federal laws to protect children from unsafe products. This report continues to be an important endeavor in keeping children - particularly babies and toddlers - safe, as the majority of all injuries happen to children in the 0-2 age range.