Holiday shopping can be a stressful experience. In addition to the long lines and expense of gift buying season, parents need to be mindful of dangerous or defective toys that could pose a hazard to their children. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has released its annual toy safety report for the 2011 holiday shopping season. While the report contains valuable safety information, parents should use their best judgment about every toy their children receive. PIRG only reviewed major toy retailers and dollar stores in compiling the report. The list of dangerous products is not exhaustive and many locally made products could represent the same or greater danger to children.
The defects that landed these toys on PIRG’s safety list come in several varieties. Some toys represented choking hazards. One was listed because it caused too much noise and threatened children’s hearing. Others contained unsafe levels of lead or other toxins. Lead represents a serious threat to children as its presence can cause permanent brain damage. Levels that would cause few problems for adults can be catastrophic to a child’s mental development.
Despite the problems listed in the safety report, toy industry leaders say their products are safer than ever before. PIRG agrees with that assessment and points to a 2008 law that set tougher standards for toymakers. The law was enacted after 172 toys were recalled that year, including many that contained dangerous levels of lead. This year, there have been just 34 toy recalls.
Parents cannot easily identify which toys contain lead, phthalates or other dangerous chemicals. They can, however, identify choking hazards. Toys with small parts, including pieces that can be broken or torn off of toys, are not appropriate for young children. Parents and safety groups are working to hold toy manufacturers accountable for the damage caused by their products. Until these hazards are removed, it is up to all of us to keep a watchful eye to protect our children from harmful toys.
Source: The Washington Post, “Hazards in holiday stockings? Oscar the Grouch doll, mini-crossbow pose risks, group says,” 22 November 2011