Parents shopping at stores and sifting through the aisles for toys this holiday season may have their children's lives in their hands more than they know. Toys that are toxic or can choke a child continue to be stocked on store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund's 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report.
The report, released this week, shows that while toy manufacturers have made small advances to reduce the hazards associated with many products, more work needs to be done.
Report: Many products on toy store shelves pose safety hazards for children
Devices that may look harmless, such as fidget spinners, may be full of lead, the report says. There’s also the threat of balloons that could get lodged in a child’s throat and choke him or her. Additionally, many toys also raise privacy concerns because of their data-collecting capabilities.
“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 children’s presents,” said Dev Gowda, Toxics Advocate with U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
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Many toys also have smart technology that allows them to talk and share location data, which could be hacked, the report says. The doll called My Friend Cayla, which was found at Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, has been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission because it may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the report says.
Watchdog groups in Europe have also raised alarms about a series of smartwatches marketed toward kids. The devices could easily be hacked, allowing criminals to know the whereabouts of a child and even eavesdrop on their conversations.
Fidget spinners, particularly two models of the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass distributed by Bulls I Toy LLC, were found to have 33,000 ppm (parts per million) of lead, which the report says is “which is more than 300 times the legal limit for lead in children’s products.” This brand of fidget spinner was found on the shelves at Target, according to the report.
Target initially balked, but on November 10, the company said that it would remove the fidget spinners, the report says.
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“Even small amounts of lead in toys can be ingested when transferred from fingers to mouth or from fingers to food,” said national lead expert Helen Binns, MD, pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Lead harms the developing brain and is easily ingested through normal hand to mouth behaviors. Beware of these 2 fidget spinners, as they have dangerous amounts of lead.”
While balloons are fun to play with, recent research shows that they can be easily inhaled by children trying to blow them up. Balloons are the responsible for more children’s choking deaths than any other product, the report says.
Researchers found five balloon sets sold at Dollar Tree, Party City and Dollar City Plus, that were of particular concern :
- Found at Dollar Tree: H2O Blasters – Water Balloons and Disney Princess Punchball Balloons
- Found at Party City: Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs and Mega Value Pack 14 Latex Punch Balloons)
- Found at Dollar City Plus: Party Balloons – 10
The report says that the balloons had misleading labels which made them look safe for children ages 3 to 8.
Many toys require assembly or have small parts that children could put in their mouths. “We found several toys that contain small parts, but do not have any warning label at all. These included a peg game, golf, and football travel games that we found at Dollar Tree,” the report says.
While not as popular as they were a few years ago, hoverboards continue to be sold in the United States despite repeated incidents of them catching fire.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that before you purchase a hoverboard, make sure it contains a UL2272-certification sticker from the product-testing group Underwriters Laboratories.
“However, even UL2272 compliance cannot guarantee that a hoverboard will not overheat or catch fire,” the report says.
This holiday, adults will need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting their children. Remember also to report any unsafe toys you come across or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at SaferProducts.gov.