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Annual Trouble in Toyland Report Helps Shoppers Find Safe Gifts

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Annual Trouble in Toyland Report Helps Shoppers Find Safe Gifts

The 26th annual Trouble in Toyland toy safety report.Madison, Wisconsin - Aqua Dots. Lawn darts. Front-loading Easy Bake Ovens. You may know them as toys not fit for the worst of Santa's Naughty List. While these notorious toys may be things of the past, choosing safe toys for their children remains a priority for parents, especially during the holiday gifting season.

To help consumers avoid unsafe toys, the Safe Kids Coalition hosted the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group's (WISPIRG) 26th annual Trouble in Toyland Survey on Toy Safety press conference Nov. 22 at American Family Children’s Hospital.

Based upon the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Trouble in Toyland provides a list of potentially dangerous toys as well as tips for parents on what to look for and avoid while toy shopping. To make it even easier for parents to access this information on the go, WISPIRG launched a mobile-friendly website,, which lists known hazardous toys and provides tips in picking out safe toys.

At the conference Bruce Speight, director of WISPIRG, presented a sampling of hazardous toys found this year based upon four major concerns:choking hazards, lead content, phthalates content and noise hazards.

Choking hazards are a major consideration for parents as they shop for age-appropriate toys. The CPSC has recalled more than 3.5 million toys for choking hazards, the single largest reason for a toy to be recalled. Even with this large number of recalls, between 2005 and 2009, at least 41 children choked to death from balloons, balls, toys or parts of toys.

To test for choking hazards, the CPSC tests parts in a Small Parts Choke Test Cylinder. But Speight doesn't believe the cylinder test to be perfect yet.
Some of the toys singled out in the 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.
"Children have choked on toys that have passed this test," said Speight. "We tell parents that it is more reliable to test toys with a bigger test cylinder, one which can be found at home, a used toilet-paper tube."

Lead, which can be found in some toys' paint, and phthalates, which are used to soften plastics, present a much tougher situation for parents.

"Parents can’t look at a toy and know what the level of lead or any toxic chemical is," said Speight.

Both chemicals are known to adversely affect children, with lead known to lower IQ and pthtalates connected to adverse reproductive effects. This year the Trouble in Toyland testing found a children's sleep mask that contained 77 times the legal limit of phthalates.

"That's why we urge parents and consumers to be vigilant," continued Speight. "And most importantly we work to have the CPSC strengthen the standards and recall those products that exceed the standards."

Noise is something most parents become accustomed to, but they must remain vigilant against toys that may present noise hazards. One in every five children in the U.S. develops some form of hearing damage by the age of 12.

The National Institute on Deafness and other communication disorders advises that prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels will cause gradual hearing loss.

This year's Trouble in Toyland report found that the Hotwheels Super Stunt RAT BOMB exceeded this level at 90-93 db of continuous noise. They also found that Elmo’s World Talking Cell Phone exceeded the recommended 65 db for "close-to-ear-toys" producing 66-74 db.

While there may not be an Aqua Dot or lawn dart in this year’s crop of hazardous toys, parental vigilance is still needed.

As Speight summed up, "There's been lots of progress. But we still have a lot of work to do."

Toy-Buying Tips

  • An empty toilet-paper roll can be used as a more reliable way to check toy and toy part/pieces size for choking hazards
  • Buy toys that are age-appropriate
  • Buy toys of quality construction. Toys that break easily into smaller parts can become a choking hazard.
  • Make sure to give proper safety gear (helmets, knee pads) with toys like bicycles and skateboards
  • Report any injuries or unsafe toys to the CPSC at

Date Published: 11/23/2011

News tag(s):  kidssafe kidsouruwhealthparenting