“Trouble In Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys On Store Shelves

Raleigh, NC – Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund’s 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping for children’s gifts.

The report exposes fidget spinners full of lead, inadequately-labeled toys and balloons that pose a choking hazard, and data-collecting toys that may violate children’s privacy and other consumer protection laws. We also provide a list of toys that have been recalled over the past year.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for children’s presents,” said Kristen Carver, Campus Organizer with NCPIRG Education Fund.

For more than 30 years, the NCPIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children, and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. Over the years, our reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.

Fidget Spinners
Key findings from the report include fidget spinners which had dangerously high levels of lead.

Small Parts
Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, the group said they found several toys that contained small parts, but do not have any warning labels. They included a peg game, golf, and football travel games that were found at a local dollar store.

Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. The report said 5 balloon sets were found on area store shelves that are either marketed to children under eight or have misleading warning labels that make it appear that they are safe for children between ages three and eight.

Data-Collecting Toys
As toymakers produce more and more products that are part of the “Internet of Things,” data collection and the sharing of consumer information become greater concerns. For example, a doll, “My Friend Cayla,” found at Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, has been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission because it may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

In July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning to consumers to “consider cybersecurity prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes.”

The best thing that parents can do is to examine toys before they purchase them. You should pay close attention to the age recommendations, but also be aware that toys for older children have parts that can break off and be unsafe” said Wake Med Children’s Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Amy Griffin. “Children should always be supervised when playing.”

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect our youngest consumers from the hazards of unsafe toys. No child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Molly Ashline, Campus Organizer with NCPIRG Education Fund. “The CPSC, manufacturers, and retailers should classify all fidget spinners as children’s products and hold them to federal lead limits. It’s simple common sense. And to prevent children from being exposed to lead-laden toys in the future, the CPSC needs to revise its loose and arbitrary regulations for determining the age range of a product.”

Even though many hoverboards have been taken off store shelves over the past year, they continue to pose dangers to children. Earlier this year, two young girls and a firefighter tragically died from a house fire that was believed to be caused by a hoverboard that was charging and overheated. And just last month, another house fire was believed to be caused by a hoverboard. Numerous hoverboards continue to be recalled by the CPSC for faulty battery packs.

In a victory for consumers, the CPSC in October issued a final rule prohibiting children’s toys and child care articles containing more than 1,000 ppm of five additional phthalate chemicals (DINP, DPENP, DHEXP, DCHP, and DIBP). U.S. PIRG Education Fund has been calling on the CPSC to ban these phthalates for several years and applauds the CPSC for its new rule. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and certain phthalates have been linked to altered development of the male reproductive system, early puberty, and cancer.

Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

  • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov;
  • Shop with NCPIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org;
  • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at SaferProducts.gov;
  • Review the recalled toys in this report and compare them to toys in your children’s toy boxes;
  • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples of potentially-dangerous toys. Our list is not exhaustive and other hazards may exist;
  • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths;
  • Eliminate small magnet hazards from your home;
  • Be aware that toys connected to the Internet, as well as apps and websites, may be collecting information about children inappropriately. Learn more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA);
  • Make sure that the hoverboards you own contain a UL2272-certification sticker from the product-testing group Underwriters Laboratories. However, even UL2272 compliance cannot guarantee that a hoverboard will not overheat or catch fire.

View the Trouble in Toyland report by clicking here.

Parents can find the groups list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season at toysafetytips.org.

The US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest.