The Connecticut Public Interest Research Group’s annual Trouble in Toyland report says the group found 24 toys on the market this year that could be hazardous to children because of toxic chemicals, choking or ingestion hazards, or excessive noise.
“The message today is simple: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care,” U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal said Monday at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The former attorney general explained that there are unseen and less obvious dangers to several toys, including balloons.
According to Dr. Steven Rogers of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, more than 250,000 children were taken to the emergency room because of injuries caused by toys last year.
“These injuries are preventable, so as parents we need to make sure our children are safe this holiday season,” he said.
“We found these toys everywhere — online in dollar stores as well as national retailers, such as Walmart,” Sean Doyle, an organizer with ConnPIRG, said.
Choking hazards were the most common danger posed by most toys. Doyle explained that any toy that fits inside a 1.25 inch diameter tube is banned for children under the age of three. However, many toys are very close to that size but are still allowed. He advised parents to check for choking hazards at home by testing if an object fits inside a toilet paper roll. If it does, it could pose a threat.
Small circular button batteries commonly used in watches, remotes and toys also pose a unique risk to children if swallowed. If they become lodged in the throat for several hours, the chemicals in the battery can burn a hole in the child’s esophagus or damage other parts of their digestive tract.
The use of toxic chemicals such as lead, chromium, and phthalates in children’s toys was also a major concern for researchers. PIRG researchers found a police badge set containing more lead than the legally allowable limit and a tambourine with nine times the legal amount of chromium.
Doyle said that toy magnets can also be dangerous. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 2,000 children have been treated in emergency rooms for swallowing magnets in the past four years. At least one child has died as a result of swallowing magnets.
“Magnets can cause severe internal damage if more than one is swallowed,” Doyle said.
The third category of dangerous toys is one most parents will be particularly happy to keep away from their kids: noisy toys.
If a toy makes sounds that are too loud, they can damage a child’s hearing. The toys highlighted in the report did not appear to violate the CPSC rules for sound levels, but Doyle said the toys aren’t tested at close range and could damage hearing if they were held close to the ear.
He advised parents to shop at stores such as Target, which have publicly stated policies on toxins in their products. These stores avoid carrying products that may pose risks to consumers.
Both Doyle and Blumenthal called upon Congress to fully fund the CPSC so that it can continue to monitor consumer products.
“My hope is that Congress will do its job over the next few weeks and provide sufficient funding so the Consumer Product Safety Commission can do its job,” Blumenthal said.
The CPSC has requested $17.2 million in funding from Congress for 2015, a 40 percent increase over this year’s budget of $12 million.