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Trouble In Toyland Report Aims To Assist Shoppers


Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to CALPIRG (California Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund’s 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including chromium and phthalates, both of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Corinne Santoro, Campaign Organizer with CALPIRG.

For 30 years, the CALPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children, and provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. Over the years, the reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.

“Toys should give joy, not expose our children to harm,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “For three decades this research has provided essential information to families and regulators, and everyone concerned about the safety of children should welcome this year’s report.”

Key findings from this year’s report include:

Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves.

Positively, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled some toys for lead violations this year, our tests did not find any. We believe this is a sign of progress, but this does not mean that lead cannot be found in other toys.

Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. Small balls pose a hazard for young children who are inclined to put objects in or near their mouths. Balloons pose the most serious choking hazard to children in the U.S. All of the balloon packages we found did include the required warning label reading that children under eight can choke on balloons and balloon parts. We continue to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

Over the past seven years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates. Earlier this year, the CPSC implemented a ban on small, powerful toy magnets which is also an important step forward. However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

“While extensive national and international efforts regarding toy safety have been exercised, dissemination of the multiple dangers imposed by new and past ‘high-risk’ toys is critical,” said Dr. Israel Green-Hopkins, the assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at UCSF Children’s Hospital. “Proper education of our families and caregivers can undoubtedly reduce the risk of injury from toys and will help to establish safe environments for children. Parents and caregivers should take particular caution with respect to toys with choking hazards.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect our youngest consumers from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Santoro. “Also, the CPSC should finalize its rule to include other toxic phthalates like DIBP on its list of banned phthalates.”

To download the full Trouble in Toyland report, go to the website at Parents can find the list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at

CALPIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest.