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Dangerous Toys Can Still Be Found on Store Shelves, Watchdogs Warn

By Quinn Ford | November 26, 2013 12:42pm
 The 28th annual survey of toy safety was released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Dangerous Toys
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RIVER NORTH — The shiny pencil case has a zipper, a place to keep your school supplies and cool pictures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It also contains 150 times the legal limit of a chemical banned in toys that can cause developmental and reproductive health problems, along with excessive amounts of another dangerous chemical, cadmium.

That's what the 28th annual survey of toy safety conducted by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group found, the consumer watchdog group announced Tuesday.

With Black Friday just around the corner, advocates and lawmakers urged consumers to keep safety in mind this holiday season, especially when buying for children. Toys on the shelves at some popular stores pose dangers and can even be lethal to kids, according to the survey.

The survey found toys that tested positive for toxic chemicals, posed choking risks for young children and  exposed kids to unsafe noise level, said Dev Gowda, of Illinois PIRG.

Announcing the survey at Lurie Children's Hospital, Gowda stood next to a table full of children's products deemed dangerous, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil case.

But the pencil case, which is sold at Toys 'R' Us, can sidestep regulations because manufacturers can argue it is not technically a toy.

"Any children's product can end up as a chew toy for a younger child, especially if it's labeled 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,'" Gowda said.

Gowda also highlighted some innocent-looking toys aimed at toddlers that he said can damage young children's hearing.

Leap Frog's Lil' Pal Phone is marketed to be held close to a child's ear, but the toy plays music above 85 decibels, a level experts say can harm a child's hearing.

"So after long exposure, when you're holding it up to your ear, it can cause hearing loss in kids," Gowda said, pressing play on the toy.

Gowda was joined by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Chicago), who pointed out another drawback of the toy.

"And it's really annoying too," Schakowsky said.

Schakowsky said the passage of the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has led to a decrease in dangerous toys by enforcing requirements like mandatory standards for pre-testing toys for infants or mandatory notices of recalls issued for unsafe toys.

"We have seen many unsafe toys disappear," she said. "But still we have products on this table that pose a real hazard."

In addition to being cautious consumers, Schakowsky warned parents to be conscious of the "family toy chest."

"If you've got something appropriate for an 8-year-old, and you have a 2-year-old in the house, remember that they can also get ahold of that product," Schakowsky said.

Madigan said consumers should be aware when buying "virtually any children's product," whether it be toys, strollers, high chairs or clothing.

"It doesn't matter where you shop," she said. "You can shop at Nieman Marcus and buy a stroller that can endanger a child. You can go to the dollar store and buy an item that might have a dangerous chemical in it."

Madigan said her office also is working to educate consumers about the dangers of resale on websites like Amazon, eBay or Craigslist.

"Unfortunately, we were able to find many items that have already been recalled available for sale on the Internet," Madigan said.

A complete list of the dangerous toys can be found in the group's report, but the group warned consumers there is no comprehensive list of hazardous toys.

Researchers visited toy stores, malls and dollar stores during the past three months to comb the shelves for unsafe toys.

Gowda said dangerous toys were found in a number of stores such as Toys 'R' Us, Babies 'R' Us, Dollar Tree, Kmart and Walmart.

And Gowda added he was able to buy the toys within the past few days.

"There's still plenty of them out there," he said. "I didn't grab the last ones either."

In addition to dangerous chemicals and noise levels, consumers are also warned to be aware of toys that can cause children to choke. Since 2001, more than 90 children in the United States have died from choking on toys, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Parents can report or check for unsafe products on saferproducts.gov.