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Watchdog Group Says Many Toys Unsafe

Consumer Group Calls for Ban on Popular Water Yo-Yos
WebMD Health News

Nov. 23, 2004 - A consumer group is warning holiday shoppers that dozens of potentially unsafe toys remain on store shelves despite posing a risk of choking or other injuries for children.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a report listing more than 60 toys that may endanger young kids because they contain small parts that are potential choking hazards, contain potential toxic chemicals, are potential strangulation hazards, or lack required safety warnings.

The group is also renewing calls on the federal government to ban popular water yo-yos, which are responsible for more than 400 reported injuries. The yo-yo water ball caused incidents in which the toy wrapped tightly around children's necks or caused other injuries to the eyes, face and head. The yo-yos are marketed in the U.S. under several names, including "Yo-Yo Squeeze Toy." Regulators in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom have banned them.

The report comes a day after the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission announced recalls of ten toys and warned consumers that recalled toys could remain in stores this holiday season.

The agency reported 11 toy-related deaths involving children under age 15 in 2003, mostly from choking or aspiration of small parts. An estimated 155,400 children were treated for toy-related injuries in U.S. emergency rooms, though the number is down nearly 25% since 2001, it announced.

"Parents and holiday shoppers should be aware that not all toys on store shelves are tested or safe," Lindsey Johnson, a U.S. PIRG consumer advocate tells reporters.

"CPSC should ban sales of water yo-yo balls immediately," she said.

Johnson displayed several other toys, including a Dora the Explorer music box manufactured by Fischer Price that exceeds noise standards, a Disney Princess backpack that contains a toy ring small enough for children under six to aspirate, and a children's musical instrument set containing bells that can break off and fit in a child's throat.

Some brands of children's nail polish contain xylene, a chemical that can cause dizziness, headaches or other symptoms when inhaled or ingested, according to the report. Since children are prone to putting their hands in their mouths, nail polish offers a direct route of exposure to these potentially toxic chemicals.

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.

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