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Eric Mosher, PIRGIM advocate, holds an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony. (Daily Tribune/DAVID DALTON)
The toys children receive during the holiday season, or anytime of the year, can be an eminent disaster if caregivers don’t pay attention to what kids are playing with or what they’re buying in stores, according to a survey on toy safety released Tuesday.
With 10 children from Childtime Daycare in attendance at the Northwood Shopping Center in Royal Oak, the PIRGIM Education Fund released its 28th annual survey – and the results are startling.
The report found that despite improvements from recent product reforms, there are still dangerous toys on store shelves that pose a safety hazard.
Eric Mosher, an advocate for PIRGIM (Public Interest Research Group in Michigan) unveiled a list of dangerous toys that parents and daycare folks should be aware of on Tuesday.
“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe,” Mosher said Tuesday, noting this year’s report shows toys that contain high levels of lead, cadmium, and phthalates. “We also found toys that pose choking hazards that lack the required labeling, and excessively loud toys that put a young child at risk for hearing damage.”
Mosher was joined for Tuesday’s announcement at Safety City, U.S.A. by State Sen. Roger Kahn, and Donna Bucciarelli, a trauma prevention coordinator at Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak, which helped sponsor the survey announcement.
The most startling finding from the Trouble in Toyland report is that toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves.
“We found several toys with high lead levels, including a toddler toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead and ‘play jewelry’ for children with two times the legal limit,” Mosher said. “We also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony; and a children’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium.”
Despite a ban on small parts in toys, Mosher said PIRGIM also found toys available that pose choking hazards.
“We found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders,” Mosher said.
Kahn, R-Saginaw, said over the past five years stronger rules have helped get some toys off the market, however, not all toys comply with laws and new legislation must become law.
“That’s why it is critical that protections be put in place to ensure items on store shelves are safe and parents have easy access to information to help them protect their kids,” he said.
Kahn looked down on the pre-school children on Tuesday and said he wanted to “make sure toys are safe and fun.”
“Kids put just about anything in their mouths,” Kahn said. “These magnets can be swallowed and bind together in the stomach.
“Chinese toys are suspicious. When we were doing the toxic lead bill, it was Chinese toys.”
Mosher noted on Tuesday that PIRGIM is “not targeting stores.”
“We would like to see the unsafe toys issue resolved,” he said. “Despite steady progress, there are still real hurdles to get over. We still have to revise safety standards and overhaul current policies in place.”
One toy that drew a lot of attention on Tuesday was a “Chat & Count” toy from Leap Frog Enterprises, Inc., and sold at Babies “R” Us, that was excessively loud and produced “continuous noise,” Mosher said.
Another toy was “Sonic Sound Sizzlers Noise Magnets” made by JA-RU, Inc., and sold at Family Dollar. Mosher showed Tuesday how the high-powered magnets stuck to his hand, with a magnet on each side.
Also, the “Lamaze Take and Tidy Activity Blanket” was tested and discovered to be an antimony chronic health hazard. It is sold at Babies “R” Us.
The survey explains how, in 2007, children’s product recalls reached an all-time high of 231 recalls of 46 million toys and 15 million other children’s products. It resulted in Congress passing a landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was the first major overhaul of products and toy safety since the early 1970s.
Mosher said policymakers must ensure the Consumer Product Safety Commission is given the resources needed to protect consumers.
According to the survey, policymakers should require manufacturers to provide all hazard and health-impact information to the state and federal government so agencies can begin to access the thousands of chemicals currently on the market.
Mosher concluded Tuesday that because there is no comprehensive list of potentially hazardous toys, consumers can visit two websites that provide great information. Visit saferproducts.gov and toysafetytips.org.
For more information on PIRGIM’s 28th annual survey on toy safety, visit pirgimedfund.org.
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