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Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers To Hidden Toy Hazards



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Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers To Hidden Toy Hazards

WATERBURY –– Hazardous toys can still be found on store shelves across the country despite passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act, according to a nationwide survey released by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG).

More than 212,000 people sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms in 2002 for toy-related injuries, of which more than a third were under 5 years old. Thirteen children died from toy related injuries in 2002.

“Even one toy-related death is too many, because these deaths are preventable,” said Carrie Boyd, ConnPIRG advocate.

“It is most important that parents and caretakers be aware of the potential hazards from children’s toys,” State Sen Joan Hartley emphasized. “The purpose of the ConnPirg campaign is to do just that, raise the awareness of parents and caretakers with regard to the safety of toys and the well being of children.”

The annual ConnPIRG Trouble in Toyland report, available at www.toysafety.net, offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

“Parents should never have to wonder whether a toy might cause serious harm to their child,” said State Sen Christopher Murphy, chairman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee. “It is outrageous that in this day and age, a report such as this even has to exist –– but until every toy maker prioritizes safety over profits, I’ll be thrilled to have ConnPIRG as a partner in protecting our children’s health.”

ConnPIRG’s research focused on four categories of toy dangers: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, toys that pose strangulation hazards or could form dangerous projectiles, and toys that contain toxic chemicals.

Highlights of the report’s findings include the following:

Choking Hazards: Choking on small parts, small balls, and balloons remains a leading cause of toy-related deaths and injuries. ConnPIRG researchers found that manufacturers and retailers continue to sell toys that have small parts but are not labeled with the choke hazard warning required by law, and balloons are often sold in unlabeled bins in violation of the law requiring that they be labeled as unsafe for children younger than 8 years old.

Dangerously Loud Toys: Just this month, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) set a new acoustics standard for toys in order to protect children’s hearing. The new standard says that most toys should not produce a sound louder than 90 decibels when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters. Close-to-the-ear toys, such as toy cell phones, should not exceed 70 decibels when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters because hearing damage can occur. ConnPIRG researchers tested several toys and found that they may not meet the new standard.

Toxic Hazards: ConnPIRG researchers surveyed more than 40 toy manufacturers about their use of phthalates in children’s toys and other products. Of those who responded, most reported that they have stopped using phthalates in teethers, mouthing toys, and other toys and products intended for children under 3, although several admitted that toys for older children may contain these chemicals.

ConnPIRG identified several children’s cosmetic sets containing xylene and popular brands of polymer modeling clay containing high concentrations of phthalates.

Yo-Yo Water Balls: Several countries, including the United Kingdom, have banned the popular yo-yo water ball because of incidents in which the toy wrapped tightly around children’s necks or caused other injuries to the eyes, face, and head. In September 2003 the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that it would not recall the product. Instead, the agency advised parents to supervise use of the toy, cut its cord, or throw it away.

ConnPIRG called on CPSC to recall the yo-yo ball and issue a moratorium on sales until manufacturers properly label the toys, by warning that improper use can lead to strangulation and other bodily injury and that the toy is not suitable for children under 8 years old.

Carrie Boyd noted that the toy list in the ConnPIRG report is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves. “Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers,” she added, “before they make a purchase this holiday season. While most manufacturers comply with the law, parents should not assume that all toys on store shelves are safe or adequately labeled.”

ConnPIRG is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization dedicated to environmental protection, consumer rights, and good government. The full report is available at www.toysafety.net.

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