Report Warns Parents to Watch Out for 'Treacherous Toys'
By Dana Varinsky on December 8, 2013 6:41pm
MIDTOWN — As Christmas approaches and holiday shopping ramps up, a new report warns parents to be careful about the products their kids may find under the Christmas tree.
The report was released Sunday afternoon by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in coordination with the New York Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. It highlights 14 “treacherous toys” that were found in 35 stores across New York State.
The list includes toys that pose choking and injury hazards, contain toxic substances and have magnetic parts that could be dangerous if swallowed. A soft Captain America shield was found to contain lead, and a Nerf N-Strike Jolt Blaster shoots with enough power to cause eye injuries, and seal and dolphin Littlest Pet Shop figurines can be broken down into small parts that could cause a child to choke.
“At the end of the day, parents and our communities want to ensure that they aren’t unknowingly, unwittingly buying products that could harm their children,” Senator Gillibrand said, adding, “as a mother of two young boys, Theo and Henry, I understand there is no greater duty than to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
Three of the toys on the list tested positive for elevated levels of toxic substances, including phthalates, which are added to plastics to make them softer and more pliable. Phthalates have been found to be associated with asthma, birth defects and hormone disruption, among other health problems. Although they are regulated in toys, there is no limit on phthalate content in other children’s products, such as backpacks, raincoats and binders.
One item on the list, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil case manufactured by Innovative Design and available in select Toys R Us stores, was found to contain 150 times the legal phthalate limit for toys. Currently, it does not qualify as a toy under federal regulations.
Megan Ahearn, an NYPIRG spokesperson, said these toxin findings were the most striking element of this year’s report. “It’s really alarming. That’s really high levels of those chemicals,” she said.
Because products like the pencil case are still legal, Senator Gillibrand called for an extension of federal regulation on phthalate levels and vowed to introduce legislation to outlaw six types of phthalates.
“What we want to do is ban the phthalates not jus tin toys, but in all products used by children under 12 years old,” Gillibrand said.
But Toy Industry Association spokesperson Adrienne Appell, insisted that the toys on New York shelves are safe. “Providing safe toys for children is the industry’s highest priority; assuring that all play is safe is a responsibility we share with parents and other caregivers,” she wrote in a statement.
Several companies that manufacture toys on the list also refuted the claims about their products.
“U.S. toy safety standards are as stringent as they have ever been and we belie this claim is wholly without Merit,” wrote Anne-Marie Feliciano Grill, referring to the soft Captain America shield manufactured by Disguise.
But Farouk Abdallah, a Brooklyn resident and parent of a 4-year-old daughter and 1-year old son, said he reads the Treacherous Toys report each year and does not trust everything he sees on the shelves.
“For me the scarier thing is the toxic chemicals,” he said, “because we may not even know them all.”
Abdallah also cited the report’s suggestion that parents use a toilet paper tube to measure whether toys' parts are too small for kids, saying the tip proved useful for him. “Something as simple as that could really make a difference,” he said.