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Tips to protect your kids from unsafe toys and gifts this year

There’s good news from the Consumer Product Safety Commission this year: recalls involving unsafe toys are down, largely due to third-party testing requirements and more toys that violate safety standards being stopped at ports. Fewer toy recalls is good news, but it doesn’t mean no dangerous toys are sitting on store shelves.

The consumer group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, recently published its annual report “Trouble in Toyland,” which identifies potentially unsafe toys so parents don’t unwittingly give them as holiday gifts. This year, PIRG found several widely-available lead-tainted toys, along with others posing hazards to children. For example:

  • The Marvel Super Hero Squad Captain America Soft Shield, manufactured for Hasbro for children 2 and older, tested at 29 times the legal limit for lead.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil cases from Innovative Designs LLC contain excessive levels of phthalates and cadmium.
  • Two toddler phone toys from Leap Frog, the Chat & Count phone and the Lil' Phone Pal, exceeded federal noise-level limits set to protect children’s hearing.
  • Several toys that pose choking hazards lacked the required age labels.
  • Strong magnets small enough for children to swallow were still available, some labeled for the wrong age group. These cause serious gastrointestinal injury when swallowed.

Representatives of the Toy Industry Association challenged the PIRG’s report, however, claiming that the toys weren’t tested by CPSC-accredited labs. However, lead hazard warnings have now been attached to many of the products online.

The CPSC recommends avoiding these most dangerous holiday products:

  • High-powered, non-encapsulated magnets.
  • Small toys that pose choking hazards.
  • Riding toys, which risk dangerous falls.
  • Deflated balloons, because children younger than 8 can easily suffocate if they swallow them.
  • Non-motorized scooters -- the single most dangerous product for children under 15 -- which pose a serious risk of lacerations to the face and head.

Once the unwrapping is done, the agency also suggests parents:

  • Immediately discard any plastic packaging to avoid suffocation.
  • Keeping younger children from playing with their older siblings’ toys.
  • Keeping children away from battery chargers, which pose burn hazards.

Manufacturers and retailers are legally responsible for ensuring their products are safe and properly labeled so consumers don’t get hurt. While it’s positive news that fewer dangerous toys may be on the shelves this year, even a single child suffering a serious injury or dying from an unsafe toy is too many. Keep yours safe this season.


  • SF Gate, "Toy recalls down, but hazards remain (corrected)," Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press, Dec. 3, 2013
  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission news release, "Global System of Toy Safety Works to Keep Kids Safe This Holiday Season; Recalls Down, Port Seizures Up," Nov. 30, 2013

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