National group issues annual warning about hazardous toys

On the eve of holiday shopping season, a national nonprofit has issued its annual report on hazardous toys, and a toy industry group is already firing back, reassuring parents that toys sold in the United States are safe.

The Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report highlights four basic types of hazards:

▪ toxic chemicals.

▪ small toys and parts that children will put in their mouths.

▪ loud toys that could harm a child’s hearing.

▪ small magnets that children can swallow.

Many of the toys the report highlights meet current federal standards, but PIRG believes they can still pose a hazard to children.

“We need to do everything we can to protect the youngest consumers,” said Dan DeRosa, director of the North Carolina chapter of PIRG.

NCPIRG released the report at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh. DeRosa brought examples of toys featured in the report, including a fairy wand from a dollar store that had a bead that can pop off and go into a child’s mouth.

“As a buyer, you might not realize this wand would have anything dangerous on it,” he said.

Emergency departments at U.S. hospitals treated an estimated 251,800 toy-related injuries in 2014, and at least 11 children under age 15 died, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Dr. Andy Jakubowicz, assistant director of WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department, said he sees a toy-related injury about every two weeks, more during the holiday season.

“Injuries from hazardous toys are still too common,” Jakubowicz said, adding that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older siblings should all be aware of the risks. “It’s a family issue, and now is a perfect time to talk about the proper toys for kids.”

This is the 30th year that PIRG has issued its hazardous toy report, and toy safety has improved in that time, DeRosa said. This year, none of the toys the organization tested showed high levels of lead, though some preliminary tests suggested high levels of chromium in three toys.

Congress beefed up consumer safety regulations for toys in 2008, banning certain toxic chemicals in toys and making product recalls easier. Since then, toy-related deaths of children under age 15 have declined 40 percent, to 15 a year on average in the past six years.

Those tougher regulations are one reason the Toy Industry Association feels confident declaring that toys are safe. In anticipation of the PIRG report and others, the association issued a pre-emptive statement “warning families not to fall for these fear-mongering tactics.”

“What parents can rely on is knowing that all toys sold in the U.S. are highly regulated 365 days a year by the federal government and must meet more than 100 safety standard requirements,” said Steve Pasierb, the association’s president and CEO. “These are established facts in which parents can have faith.”

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

Tips for parents and caregivers

1. Let children play with age-appropriate toys only. Read the labels.

2. Store toys for older kids separately from toys for younger kids.

3. Watch children under 3 for choking hazards. If a toy can fit through a toilet-paper roll, it’s too small.

4. Check toys regularly for broken parts or frayed wires.

5. Keep young children within sight and within reach.

Source: Dr. Andy Jakubowicz