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Children's Health

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Dangerous Toys Abound During Holidays

Shoppers Urged to Be Aware of Toy Recalls and Hidden Toy Dangers
WebMD Health News

Nov. 25, 2003 -- Dangerous toys are still sitting on store shelves and may pose serious risks to unlucky children who receive them as holiday gifts.

The annual Trouble in Toyland report, released today by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), shows that many manufacturers and retailers continue to sell toys that have small parts but are not labeled with the choke hazard warning as required by law. Other toys that exceed safety standards for loudness, toxic ingredients, and strangulation hazards are also in toy stores and increasingly available via the Internet.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also issued a reminder today for shoppers to be aware of recalled toys that may still be available in stores, resale shops, garage sales, and on the web.

Each year, more than 212,000 people, including 72,000 children under age 5, are treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for toy-related injuries. Thirteen children died from toy-related injuries in 2002.

"Even one toy-related death is too many, because these deaths are preventable," says PIRG Research Director Alison Cassady, in a news release.

Report Reveals Hidden Toy Dangers

The PIRG's report focuses on four types of toy dangers: choking hazards, dangerously loud toys, strangulation hazards or dangerous projectiles, and toxic chemical hazards.

Researchers found that many manufacturers are producing and labeling toys that violate the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act. For example:

  • Choking hazards: Many toys that have small parts are not labeled with the choke hazard warning required by law. In addition, balloons are still being made and marketed in shapes that appeal to young children and sold in unlabelled bins, despite the law that requires that they be labeled as unsafe for children under 8 years old.
  • Dangerously loud toys: Several toys on store shelves exceed 100 decibels when measured at close range. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing damage.
  • Toxic hazards: Toys can expose children to dangerous chemicals, such as phthalates. The PIRG found toy makers are selling play cosmetic kits that include nail polish containing toxic chemicals, like xylene and dibutyl phthalate. Many plastic bath toys and molding clays also contain dangerously high levels of phthalates.
  • Strangulation hazards: Many countries, including the U.K., have banned the popular yo-yo water ball because it can wrap tightly around a child's neck or cause injury to the eyes, face, and head, but it has not been recalled by the CPSC. Instead, the agency advised parents to supervise use of the toy, cut the cord, or throw it away.
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