The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released its 27th annual Trouble in Toyland survey warning Christmas shoppers of the danger posed by some children’s toys. According to the safety advocacy group, 150 toys have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a result of the report since it was first released in 1985, including toys that contain small parts that pose a choking hazard and toys that contain potentially toxic chemicals. Members of the Public Interest Research Group searched retail stores in the months of September, October and November looking for toys that may pose injury hazards to children.
One of the main concerns this year are toys that contain small magnets, such as Buckyballs, which were recently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to the dangers magnets pose if swallowed. According to CPSC estimates, approximately 1,700 emergency room visits, 70 percent of which involved children between the ages of 4 and 12, between the years of 2009 and 2011 were the result of internal injuries caused by swallowed magnets.
Other toys, such as balloons and small balls, pose choking hazards if swallowed. More than 200 children choked to death in the United States between 1990 and 2011. According to the Public Interest Research Group, many stores sell toys that pose choking hazards to small children, many of which are not labeled with choking hazard warning labels, in possible violation of CPSC guidelines.
PIRG researchers also reported finding larger amounts of lead than allowed by law in several children’s toys. Exposure to lead can cause developmental problems in young children, including brain damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that parents screen their children for lead content in their blood. Noisy toys can also harm children, according to the PIRG, in some cases causing permanent hearing damage. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss in people of all ages, and the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimates that approximately 20 percent of children in the United States will have sustained some sort of permanent hearing loss by their 12th birthday. PIRG researchers found multiple toys that made noises exceeding 85 decibels in volume.
The PIRG reminds consumers that the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have the resources to test every product on store shelves, and many products available for sale might not meet federal safety standards.