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Many toys still toxic, hazardous

During the past 25 years, Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report has led to at least 150 recalls and other actions to get dangerous toys off store shelves.

In 2008, Congress responded to an unprecedented wave of toy recalls by passing a law to revamp the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) so it can better protect America’s kids from unsafe toys.

In addition to expanding the agency’s budget and staff, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 gave CPSC more tools to speed recalls of dangerous toys, banned toxic metals and phthalates from many types of toys and children’s products, and established mandatory testing of toys and other children’s products.

While there has been progress, there is still danger in the toy box. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s report and the resources we offer can help consumers identify and avoid the worst toy threats and keep children safe this year.

Consumers can use our interactive website — toysafety.mobi — on their smart phones and their home computers to keep toy safety at their fingertips. And they can use the site to tell us about a toy they think may be unsafe.

Key findings from the “Trouble in Toyland” report include:

• In 2009, many toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates were banned. Still, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund found children’s products, including a baby doll that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 30 percent.

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under 3, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards, including a toy train with a wooden peg that, while compliant with current standards, nearly led to the choking death of a D.C.-area toddler.

• Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but Arizona PIRG Education Fund researchers found toys containing toxic lead and antimony on store shelves.

Although improvement has been made on toy safety, there is still more work to be done, especially when it comes to eliminating choking hazards and regulating the tens of thousands of chemicals that are in the toys children play with every day.

According to the most recent data from CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 250,000 children — 90,000 under the age of 5 — to emergency rooms in 2009. Twelve children died from toy-related injuries that year.

For parents and consumers about to embark on their holiday shopping, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund offers the following:

• Remember that the “Trouble in Toyland” report includes only a sampling of potentially hazardous toys. Always examine toys carefully for potential dangers before you make a purchase.
• Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to toysafety.mobi

— Diane E. Brown is executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, which conducts research and education on public interest issues. “Trouble in Toyland” can be downloaded atwww.arizonapirg.org

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