Annual Trouble in Toyland report says dangerous toys still on store shelves

With the holiday shopping season about to hit high gear, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group are warning parents to be on the lookout for toys that could be harmful to children.

Some of the unsafe toys mentioned in the new report (photo by Allen Wallace)

A new report lists these as well as others as unsafe toys. (photo by Allen Wallace)

The PIRG’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report, which was released Tuesday, said that though progress has been made, unsafe toys are still on shelves in nearly every store that sells toys.

Dr. Jeff Holloway, a pediatrician with Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and University of South Carolina Sports Medicine, said the biggest concerns are small parts and magnets that kids can swallow, loud toys that damage hearing and toxic chemicals used in making the toys. Those chemicals, Holloway said, can have serious negative impacts on the development of children.

He said the report’s list of dangerous toys is the only way for parents to know which toys contain the dangerous chemicals. The Marvel Super Hero Squad Soft Shield, the Ninja Turtles Pencil Case, the Monster High Skelita wig and several kinds of toy rings all tested positive for harmful substances.

“These toys won’t come with a label saying they’re toxic,” he said. “There are some chemicals on the list I’d never even heard of.”

He said swallowing hazards are easier to track and suggested parents use a roll of toilet tissue as a guideline — any toy that can pass through the cardboard center of a roll is unsafe for children younger than 3. Toys on this year’s PIRG list that fail that test include Hasbro’s Little Pet Shop Collection and the Just Like Home Super Play Food Set.

In the case of noise, Holloway said many parents are unaware of the dangers. He said one in every five children younger than 12 suffers some degree of hearing damage. He said the safety guideline is simple.

“If it’s too loud for you, it’s too loud for your kid,” he said. The Leap Frog Chat and Count Smart Phone and the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Remote were among the toys found to exceed safe noise levels in this year’s report.

If a particularly beloved toy is too loud, Holloway suggested covering speakers with tape as an alternative to getting rid of it.

Palmetto Health Children's Hospital doctors demonstrating a way to identify choking hazards (photo by Allen Wallace)

Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital doctors demonstrate a method to identify choking hazards. (photo by Allen Wallace)

The report also stresses the importance of proper safety equipment with toys such as scooters and bicycles. Holloway said many injuries also happen because kids have helmets that don’t fit properly.

“All it takes is one hit to change a life,” Holloway said, adding that a helmet that does fit can decrease the risk of head injury by 88 percent.

Safe Kids Midlands provides free helmets for kids who need them. Safe Kids representatives also assisted with the study by checking stores for toys on the PIRG unsafe list. They found the toys widely available.

Holloway said the goal for Palmetto Health and the PIRG is prevention and making parents aware of the dangers, which can surprise even a pediatrician.

“As a new parent, I’ve found myself at times not realizing what my child is capable of doing,” he said.

The Trouble in Toyland report also hopes to push toy manufacturers toward making safer products.

“No child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” Holloway said.

More on the report, including a quiz on identifying dangerous toys can be found here.

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