Children who received toys at Christmas could have some that are dangerous and create hazards. Could your child’s favorite toy be hazardous to his health? The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that despite recent progress in consumer product safety standards, there were hazardous toys on the shelves, which may have found their way under somebody’s Christmas tree. The findings were published in the organization’s 29th annual Trouble in Toyland report.
U.S. PIRG looks for potential safety hazards in several areas, such as the presence of toxic chemicals like lead, phthalates and chromium; small toys that pose a choking hazard; toys that are too loud and thereby pose a risk to a child’s hearing; and powerful toy magnets that can be accidentally ingested, causing serious injury or even death. The Trouble in Toyland report has led to more than 150 product recalls and other regulatory actions, and has helped educate the public and policymakers about the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.
Progress has been made in recent years to protect consumers, particularly children, from hazardous products. The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was created and implemented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), giving the agency new authority to protect children from unsafe products. The Act established mandatory toy standards, lowered acceptable levels of potentially toxic chemicals, implemented independent third-party testing of toys and other children’s products, and increased port inspections to prevent dangerous toys from coming into the U.S. from other countries. Additionally, in September the CPSC banned small, powerful toy magnets that posed a particular hazard if accidentally swallowed.
Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), had this to say:
Parents and all consumer should have more confidence in the products they may own or consider purchasing, but should also continue to carefully research and select the safest and most appropriate products for the children on their gift lists. Manufacturers should ensure they comply with the law and continued CPSC enforcement and adequate funding is necessary to further protect our nation’s children.
Despite these assurances, each year PIRG discovers there are dangerous toys and children’s products that slip through the regulatory process. U.S. PIRG Public Health Campaign Director Sujatha Jahagirdar told the Claims Journal that “Not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain. He added “We should be able to trust that the toys are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys.”
Parents and caregivers can still play an active role in inspecting toys their children may have received as a gift. Key information is available at the CPSC website, www.safterproducts.gov. Parents can find information there about toy recalls or warnings. Additionally, U.S. PIRG and CFA encourage parents and caregivers to report any problems with an unsafe toy or other children’s product to the CPSC as well, which will help identify a potential problem and inform other consumers of a possible risk. In the future, U.S. PIRG recommended before Christmas that consumers should only shop at stores that have a publicly available corporate policy on toxins in their products, and should use caution when purchasing toys online or at big box or discount stores, where regulations may be lax.
A list of unsafe toys identified by the 2014 Trouble in Toyland report, along with tips for safer toy shopping, can be found at www.ToySafetyTips.org. I suggest that all parents who have small children check this site to make sure no unsafe toys are in their homes.
Sources: Claims Journal and U.S. PIRG
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