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Beware of Certain Toys, Some are Dangeous


With Black Friday just about here, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a news conference with a public interest group and a public health expert to highlight the findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland report. Consumer alerts 2

Now in its 34th year, the study released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) points out dangers that may be lurking behind some popular toys and gadgets for children this holiday season. Since the first report, more than 150 recalls or other administrative actions have been taken against toys deemed to be unsafe.

The concern today isn’t just about choking hazards, although officials said that still remains an issue with items like deflated balloons and board game pieces. To determine if a toy or toy piece, like a wheel, can cause choking, experts said parents should take the piece and try to fit it through an empty toilet paper roll. If the item passes through the cylinder, it can lead to choking.

Emma Horst-Martz, a PennPIRG associate, said some toys expose children to harmful chemicals or elements. Others, such as toy police car she demonstrated, can produce sounds that are too loud for young kids’ ears.

“Sometimes that toy gun or action figure isn’t just annoying,” said Horst-Martz. “If it’s too loud, it can actually be harmful to a child’s developing hearing.”

In some instances, parents can take steps to reduce the noise impact by either taking out the batteries in a toy or placing tape over the speaker to muffle the sound.

However, DePasquale, who said he championed regulatory efforts as a state lawmaker, said it shouldn’t come down to parents or gift-givers trying to determine if something’s safe. And he also warned consumers that just because a toy is on a store shelf or available in an online store, that doesn’t mean it's not the subject of a recall notice.

Information about toys that have been recalled is available at

“While I do think a lot of these consumer warnings and public interest outreach are important, I also think that the stores and the companies should do a better job of making sure these toys aren’t available in the first place,” he said. “When something is recalled, I believe they should be off the shelves and not available for resale.”

Some safety issues have been withdrawn. For example, standards regarding toy magnets were repealed three years ago. As a result, toys like construction or sculpture sets, which can contain small pieces, can cause harm if small child swallows one or more magnetic pieces. In some cases, the magnets can settle in a child’s digestive system and pinch vital organs to the point of blood loss.

According to the report, doctors in an Oregon hospital removed 54 small magnets from four children in a one-month time frame.

Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals that toy injuries led to more than 250,000 emergency room visits in 2017. Amy Bollinger, who serves as the program manager for the Penn State Children’s Hospital pediatric trauma and injury prevention program, said her hospital sees such injuries on a weekly basis.

“We have a real responsibility to talk about what we can do as adults and caregivers to keep kids safe,” Bollinger said. “Because toy injuries are preventable.”

The 2019 report is available at


published here with permission