A New Tool to Help Parents Buy Safe Toys
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MADISON - Parents have a new tool to help keep their children safe thanks to a mobile Web site from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), a federation of state public interest groups.
The new site is accessible via smart phone or computer at toysafety.mobi. Through the interactive tool, parents can check on possible hazards, as well as report any hazardous toys they find, all while standing in the middle of the toy aisle at their local store.
"Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids," said Bruce Speight, director of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).
Advice for Holiday Shopping
While there is no single comprehensive list of potentially hazardous toys, there are steps parents can take to make informed decisions when purchasing toys for their children, including:
- Examine toys carefully before you make a purchase
- Use common sense
- Look for small parts that might pose a choking hazard
- When purchasing a toy for an older child, keep any younger siblings in mind as they can easily pick up the toy and get hurt
- Report unsafe toys and products to the CPSC at their Web site, CPSC.gov
Nicole Vesely, American Family Children's Hospital Safe Kids Coalition coordinator, added a few other suggestions for parents, including:
- Buy age-appropriate toys
- Look for toys that are well made
- Purchase proper protective gear to accompany a gift, such as a helmet or knee pads
- Make sure the toy is appropriate for a child's ability and age, even if it might be a popular toy this season
"As a parent of a toddler, I think we overestimate our child's ability and strengths," said Vesely. "It's important for parents to remember that even though we might look at a toy and it says it's for a certain age group, we need to monitor and make sure."
Vesely also reminded parents that children shouldn't be left alone while playing even if the toy is safe.
|Nicole Vesely offers tips to help parents choose safe toys|
Trouble in Toyland
The Safe Kids Coalition works in partnership with WISPIRG to help get the word out to consumers to help remind them about toy safety. During a recent presentation at American Family Children's Hospital, Speight discussed the findings of WISPIRG's 24th annual Trouble in Toyland report.
WISPIRG's annual report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys that are currently on store shelves and may pose potential safety hazards.
The Trouble in Toyland report focused on four primary areas: choking hazards, lead, phthalates, and noise hazards. In each of the areas, WISPIRG researchers found examples of toys and children's products that violated national standards on store shelves throughout Wisconsin, including the Madison area.
"We all know toddlers love to put everything in their mouths," commented Speight. "In the past two years, 13 children have choked to death on balloons, balls and toys with small parts."
In 2009, the CPSC has already recalled 5.3 million toys and children's products on store shelves due to choking hazards.
Speight recommended parents use an empty toilet paper roll to test a product if they have any concerns.
"If a toy fits within the roll, it is too small for children under age three," explained Speight.
|This cloth book contained excessive amounts of lead|
While lead was severely restricted in toys under the new CPSC guidelines enacted in August of this year, WISPIRG researchers found lead-laced toys and children's jewelry on store shelves.
Lead is a powerful neurotoxin and has negative effects on almost every organ and system in the human body.
"So far in 2009, the CPSC has recalled 1.3 million toys that exceeded the lead paint standards," said Speight.
One item WISPIRG researchers found on store shelves was a "touch and feel" cloth book for toddlers.
"The children's book contained lead in levels of 1,900 parts per million," explained Speight. "The new standard is 90 parts per million."
WISPIRG notified retailers of the book, as well as all dangerous toys found in their report. In response, one major toy retailer stopped the sale of the book.
Phthalates are used to make plastics softer and are linked to adverse reproductive and developmental health effects including early-onset puberty and premature delivery. Children are most vulnerable.
|Looking over a purse that contains excessive amounts of pthalates. From left, Bruce Speight, Rep. Roys, Nicole Vesely and Nan Peterson, Children's Hospital Child Advocacy Program manager|
Six types of phthalates were regulated under the new consumer safety laws that banned products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates. Still, WISPIRG found children's products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2 percent.
One example Speight pointed to was a pink plastic purse that contains phthalates at 5.4 percent, well above the .1 percent standard.
Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss. The American Society for Testing and Materials standards established a voluntary threshold of 85 decibels for children's toys, 65 decibels for toys held near the ear.
Despite that, there were several toys on the shelves that exceeded those levels.
"If it is too loud for you, it is too loud for your children," said Speight.
If children already have loud toys, Speight recommended putting tape over the speaker of the toy or removing the batteries to help protect children's hearing.
While BPA was not a focus area of the Trouble in Toyland Report, WISPIRG has been working with State Representative Kendra Roys and State Senator Julie Lassa to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups through the BPA Free Kids Act (SB271, AP405). A similar bill has already passed in Minnesota and other state and municipal legislative bodies across the country.
BPA is linked to cancer, hyperactivity, obesity and early-onset diabetes and is commonly found in baby bottles and sippy cups.
"The BPA Free Kids Act seeks to protect children, our most vulnerable consumers, from BPA," said Roys.
Roys explained that children can be getting dangerous levels of BPA because it leaches into food and liquids. The BPA Free Kids Act will ensure that no bottles or sippy cups containing BPA will be sold to children under age 5 in Wisconsin.
"It's the responsibility of lawmakers to empower parents to be responsible consumers," concluded Roys. "It is not fair to ask parents to be chemists and test everything. That's the role of government and policy makers. When we have scientific evidence that shows a product is dangerous, we have a responsibility to act."
Date Published: 11/25/2009