United States Public Interest Research Group's (PIRG) 23rd annual Trouble in Toyland Toy Safety Survey focused their 2008 study on toys with excessive levels of lead and phthalates, as well as those that posed choking risks.
Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

The year 2007 was dubbed "The Year of the Recall" as unsuspecting parents bought 45 million holiday toys containing unsafe levels of lead and phthalates, while others posed choking risks.

This massive threat against America's littlest consumers prompted Congress to draft the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. However, the Massachusetts Student Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) is encouraging holiday shoppers to remember that the toys they put under the tree this year may still be unsafe.

Last month, the United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released their 23rd annual Trouble in Toyland Toy Safety Survey. During a press conference at the Amelia Park Children's Museum in Westfield on Nov. 25, MASSPIRG member Sarah Mitnick explained that this year's study focuses on three main hazards including toys that pose choking risks, contain lead or phthalates.

"Not all toys are tested [for safety hazards] before going on toy shelves," she said.

According to PIRG's Trouble in Toyland Toy Safety Survey, 190 children died from choking or asphyxiating caused by toy parts between 1990 and 2007. The document also notes that ingested magnetic toys can damage children's digestive tracks and loud toys can also cause damage to children's eardrums.

Exposure to lead can lead to neurological damage, blood poisoning, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and deficits in fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Children exposed to phthalates can suffer reproductive defects, premature delivery, early onset puberty or lower sperm counts.

Mitnick noted that PIRG found several toys that pose threats to children, which are still on store shelves such as Silly Fish Squirters, made by Toysmith in China. The product contains levels of 64 to 400 times the amount of phthalates allowed by the pending February 2009 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. If passed, the law would ban toys containing three classes of phthalates.

Toysmith declined to comment by press time.

Also considered hazardous is the Pony Land Scented Pony Pet, made by JA-RU Inc. in China, which contains 95 times the amount of phthalates allowed by the pending law.

Mitnick noted that lead paint was also found in several toys including the Red Plastic Super Car made by Four Seasons General Merchandise in China. She explained that the product contains lead paint levels above the 90 parts per million allowed by the pending Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Mitnick said toys that pose potential choking hazards include the Littlest Pet Shop made by Hasbro in China. She noted that the choking hazard label on the front of the product does not meet the standards of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

However, Audrey DeSimone, director of Corporate Communications at Hasbro Inc., disagreed.

"Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop exclusive Toy 'R' Us product number 65428 complies with all Federal labeling laws, contrary to what PIRG reported," she said. "We have independent third party lab results that validate and confirm the compliance of this item."

For more information about the PIRG's 23rd annual Trouble in Toyland Toy Safety Survey go to www.toysafety.net.

To report unsafe toys call (800) 638-2772 or go to www.cpsc.gov.

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