With the toy-shopping season underway, both in stores and online, a consumer watchdog has issued an annual report about toy safety.
The 34th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says toys have become safer in the past three decades, but some toys still on store shelves, or for sale online, can be dangerous to children.
Hazards including lead paint or toxic chemicals are not easy to identify, but some dangers are detectable, according to Sarah Vonck, an organizer with MassPIRG.
"Parents and gift-givers can keep detectable dangers away from children through simple in-home testing and monitoring for chocking hazards, extremely loud noises and products intended for adults," said Vonck.
She said a toilet paper tube can be used to determine if a small toy, or a part that is removable, poses a choking hazard.
"If it makes it through, you can assume it is unsafe for a child to play with," said Vonck.
Other common hazards include powerful magnets that can be swallowed and uninflated balloons.
The report says many toy “slime” products now on the market contain potentially dangerous amounts of boron and some children’s jewelry contains cadmium, which can cause cancer and other health problems.
" Without any warning labels parents are unaware of the potential danger these popular slime products hold," said Vonck who called for policy-makers to require labeling for children's products with high boron concentrations and to set health-based standards.
Vonck said toys that have been recalled because they are safety hazards may up show for sale online, or at yard sales. She said investigators in MassPIRG’s Boston office recently purchased online two toys that had been recalled.
" The CPSC ( Consumer Product Safety Commission) and manufacturing must do more to notify customers about these dangers through direct notificiation and agressive marketing," said Vonck.
A list of recalled toys is available at the website: recalls.gov.
PIRG’s latest report that identifies hazardous toys still for sale and provides tips for parents and other gift-givers is available online at ToysSafetyTips.org
The consumer group’s effort to warn people about dangerous toys was applauded by Paul Bailey, executive director of Springfield Partners for Community Action.
"We have a childcare program where we take care of 107 kids every day and we sure want to make them safe," said Bailey. "Any information is important to keep kids safe."
However, The Toy Association accused PIRG of using the Trouble in Toyland report to “needlessly frighten parents with baseless claims.” The trade group for toy manufacturers said all toys sold in the U.S. are subject to rigorous standards.
The association did urge people to use caution when buying toys at flea markets and unverified sellers at online marketplaces.