Despite the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which partially banned harmful phthalates from children’s products, ConnPIRG’s 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report, released Tuesday morning, demonstrated the continued danger posed by some toys for parents heading to the stores this holiday season.
This year the advocacy group warned against toys that pose a choking risk, contain harmful elements like lead and cadmium, as well as ride-able gifts like bikes and ATVs.
ConnPIRG associate Jenn Hatch warned parents with more than one child to be watchful for smaller components of toys purchased for older siblings, which may contain choking hazards.
As a rule of thumb, Hatch said that parents can us a toilet paper tube as an indicator whether the toy or piece of a toy poses a choking risk. If the toy fits inside the opening of the tube, it is likely that a child can choke on it.
Attorney General and Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal also warned against choking hazards, specifically balloons, which, despite seeming rather innocuous, lead to many choking deaths each year.
Toys containing lead, cadmium, and phthalates are still being sold, ConnPIRG found. Hatch noted that some of the toys the group found to contain phthalates were within legal limits but still potentially harmful to children, including a purple backpack featuring a “Dora the Explorer” character.
Hatch also noted that some of the toys ConnPIRG warned against at last year’s Trouble in Toyland can still be found on toy store shelves including a roaring stuffed dinosaur, which is noisy enough to pose a hearing loss risk to children.
Drivable toys like bikes and ATVs were also identified as frequent causes of child injuries. Parents were advised to acquire all applicable safety equipment if they chose to buy their kids that sort of gift.
“If you buy anything with wheels do not leave the store without purchasing a helmet,” said Jeanne Milstein, chair of the Child Fatality Review Panel. Milstein also cautioned against giving drivable gifts to children under the age of 16.
“For anyone who doubts that toy-related injuries are a problem in the United States of America, the Consumer Product Safety Commission offers vivid and undeniable proof,” Blumenthal said, referring to a CPSC report indicating that toy-related injuries had risen from 200,000 to 250,000 between 2005 and 2009.
Blumenthal called on the CPSC to investigate the findings of that report, specifically why toy injuries requiring a trip to the emergency room had increased by 25 percent.
“With the holidays upon us, parents and regulators need to know why toys are sending more and more kids—especially those under 5 – to emergency rooms,” he said in a prepared statement. “This increase is intolerable—turning playtime into hospital time.”
While the discussion covered many threats posed by toys, a common theme among all the speakers was the idea that no amount of advocacy or oversight can replace parental vigilance.
“So many deaths from toys are preventable and should be prevented by parental responsibility,” Blumenthal said.
“The best gift you can give a child is a loving and safe environment in which you make a point to play with them and read to them and slow down and just spend time with them,” pediatrician Steven Rogers said, “because that’s what they will remember when all the toys are gone.”