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Survey Finds Dangerous Toys On Store Shelves

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The following news release, on dangerous toys, is from U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Washington, D.C., Nov. 26, 2013 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report.  The survey of 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 lead, cadmium, and phthalates, all of which can have serious adverse health impacts on the development of children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and 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, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Jenny Levin, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate.

For 28 years, the U.S.PIRG 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.  The group also provides a quiz to help educate parents and others about toy-related hazards.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found several toys with high lead levels including a toddler toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead (2900 ppm), and play jewelry for children with 2 times the legal limit (200 ppm). We also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a child’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.
  • We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
  • We discovered small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

Over the past five years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market.  Improvements made in 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits, phased out dangerous phthalates, and required independent third party testing.  However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

“The CPSIA gave new authority to the CPSC to protect children from unsafe products.  Mandatory toy standards, lower lead limits, independent third party testing, and increased port inspections stop more dangerous toys than ever before from reaching toy shelves,” stated Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel at Consumer Federation of America.  “Parents and all consumers should have more confidence in the products they may own or consider purchasing but should also continue to do the right research to select the safest and most appropriate gifts for the children on their gift lists.  Manufacturers should ensure they comply with the law.  Continued CPSC enforcement and adequate funding is necessary to further protect our nation’s children.”

Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the CPSC who attended the event, stated, “Toys are safer now than they have been in the past.  Seizures of defective toys at U.S. ports are up. Nearly 10 million units of toys have been stopped at ports over the past five years.  These were potentially dangerous toys that did not make it into our stores or into the hands of children.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect America’s kids from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Levin.  “Standards for toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, and phthalates remain too weak to protect kids from potentially dangerous exposures.”

U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. www.uspirg.org

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Toys…Tips for Purchasing and Safety

With Christmas fast approaching and many of us still buying toys, I am sharing a message from a staff member of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

toysMore than half of the three billion toys and games sold in the United States each year are purchased at Christmas time. And while the majority of toys are safe, thanks in part to stronger federal rules and higher standards from toy makers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2011 alone more than 193,200 U.S. children were treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries.

Toys have changed over the years and the assortment can be astounding, particularly to those who haven’t shopped for kids in a while,” said Bevin Maynard, a child advocate at St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.”Child safety, however, never goes out of style. It is something parents and family members should always keep in mind when selecting gifts for youngsters.”

Maynard notes that appropriate selection and proper use of toys, combined with parental supervision, can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of toy-related injuries.

When selecting toys this holiday season, be sure to:

  • Choose toys suitable to the child’s age, interest and skill level. “Age labels are for safety reasons and not intended as developmental ratings,” said Maynard. “If a package indicates the toy isn’t suitable for children under 3, it doesn’t mean that your 2-year-old won’t be able to figure out how to play with the toy, but rather that the toy has small parts or sharp pieces that could injure a younger child.”
  • Skip toys with small magnetic pieces for any child under age 6 or under age 10 if they have younger siblings who could easily access the pieces.
  • Look for well-made toys.
  • Avoid toys that produce loud noises. High-volume games can permanently impair a child’s hearing, and loud sounds can frighten a younger child.
  • Avoid toys painted with lead paint. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a child’s brain, kidneys and nervous system.
  • Avoid electrical toys with heating elements (batteries, electrical plugs) for children under the age of 8. These toys are a potential burn hazard.
  • Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches, which can wrap around a child’s neck and accidentally strangle him or her.
  • Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things for young children.

Maynard adds that riding toys should not be used near stairs, traffic or swimming pools, and that parents can use the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify small toy parts that are potential choking hazards. “Small children should not play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders.”

A Gift is Not Complete Unless Proper Protective Gear is Included
Bicycles, skates, scooters and skateboards are popular gifts for the holidays, but if children lack the proper protective gear or skills, injury and death can occur. To keep kids safe whenever they “wheel” around, be sure to:

  • Include a helmet as part of a gift, which according to Safe Kids USA, can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury as much as 88 percent.
  • Buy stickers or bike reflectors and use them on the front, sides and back of the bike to increase the child’s visibility to drivers.
  • Buy a bike horn or a bell as a stocking stuffer. This tool is essential for warning motorists and pedestrians of a bicyclist’s approach.
  • Don’t forget to buy elbow and knee pads as well as wrist guards for skates and skateboards.

Kids sometimes are reluctant to wear protective gear, insisting that they are good riders or complain that none of their friends wear them. But Maynard urges parents to resist that temptation, and notes “requiring children to wear a helmet every time, everywhere they go, is the best thing you can do to protect them.”

For more information on how to keep kids safe this holiday season, or anytime of the year, visit facebook.com/stjosephschildrens.

SOURCE St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital

 

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