Trouble in Toyland 2007
The headlines over the past few months should be enough to convince a parent that just because toys are on the shelves doesn’t mean they are safe.
“This year has truly been the year of the toy recall,” said Nan Peterson, SAFE Kids coordinator at American Family Children’s Hospital.
On Tuesday the Children’s Hospital hosted the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s (WISPIRG) 22nd annual release of “Trouble in Toyland”, the organization’s survey of toy safety. This year’s survey again found dangerous product safety practices in the following key areas.
- Lead in toys and jewelry: U.S. safety standards restrict the use of lead in toys and jewelry to 600 parts per billion. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, recommends a severe curtailing of that standard, to 40 parts per billion, a level supported by WISPIRG. Either way, some toys WISPIRG found in stores this year were over the specified limit. One piece of jewelry they purchased contained 65 percent lead by weight, which is more than 1,000 times the allowable level.
- Magnets: WISPIRG found many toys with magnets are poorly designed, easily broken and inadequately labeled. This year alone the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled popular Mattel toys like Barbie® and Polly PocketTM because the magnets used in their production are small enough to be swallowed by young children. Once inside a child’s digestive tract the magnets can become attracted and cause severe damage, including perforation.
- Choking: WISPIRG’s shopping spree also produced toys for children younger than three with banned small parts and toys for children younger than six without required warning labels, both violations of federal law. Cathy Collentine (pictured above), a WISPIRG intern, recommended parents use their own safety measures to avoid toys that may cause choking. “Use something everybody has – a toilet paper roll,” Collentine suggested. “If a toy fits in the roll, it’s too small.”
Peterson also called on parents to join WISPIRG’s safety campaign by assessing toys in reference to their children’s individual development.
“Parents should consider whether the toy is appropriate for the child’s age and abilities and whether the gift requires protective gear such as helmets or knee pads,” she said. “The gift is not complete without the protective gear that comes with it."
According to WISPIRG, the recent headline-grabbing recalls are the natural byproduct of a toy inspection process that lacks proper oversight and funding. With only one full-time toy tester and 15 inspectors responsible for the millions of toys imported into the U.S., Collentine called for more resources to be directed to the CPSC and for more authority to be given to the commission to punish companies that repeatedly sell unsafe toys.
“The CPSC is a little agency with a big job it cannot do well,” she said. “The best holiday gift Congress could give to our littlest consumers is to pass a law that protects them from unsafe toys.”
Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (right) was on hand to lend her support to the WISPIRG cause and said legislation she is sponsoring would bolster the CPSC. The Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act (HR-4040), which is likely to be voted upon by the House Energy and Commerce Committee before year’s end, would increase CPSC funding to $100 million over three years, ban lead in all children’s products and mandate third-party testing and certification for children’s products. The bill also proposes more severe monetary penalties for companies who violate the law.
The full “Trouble in Toyland” report can be found at the WISPIRG Web site, www.wispirg.org. Extensive consumer safety information, including news and alerts about toy safety hazards, is available at www.toysafety.net.
Date Published: 12/28/2007