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Watchdog Group Says Many Toys Unsafe

Consumer Group Calls for Ban on Popular Water Yo-Yos

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The group also focused on the continued marketing of balloons to small children or their parents, despite data that deflated balloons are the most frequent cause of choking injuries in children. Shoppers can buy balloons with messages including "Baby's First Birthday," though Johnson says that 67 young children have choked to death on balloons since 1990.

"Marketing balloons to children or toddlers is inappropriate," she says.

According to the group's news release, "balloons are manufactured and marketed in shapes and colors attractive to young children and are often sold in unlabeled bins, in violation of the law requiring that they be labeled as unsafe for children younger than eight years old". Federal regulations ban the sale of toys intended for children under 3 if they contain parts that pose a choking hazard. Toys intended for kids between 3 and 6 are supposed to carry a label warning of the parts. But several toys in the group's report contain no such warning.

"Balloons are not toys. They're decorative items. I'm not saying kids don't like balloons, but they're not toys," says Gary S. Klein, a lobbyist for Toy Industry Association, Inc. He said in an interview that retailers rigorously test toys before selling them.

Klein says that retailers strictly test toys for choking hazards and excessive noise before selling them. He points out that 90,000 children are injured by baseballs each year, though banning them would seem ludicrous to most parents.

"It's a question of a parent understanding their child and buying the appropriate toy for the appropriate age child," he says.

The U.S. Public Interest Group "Trouble in Toyland" report is available at www.toysafety.net. It provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

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