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KINGSTON – Dangerous toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, despite recent legislation and increased safeguards.
The Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group recently released its 24th annual Trouble in Toyland report, and the group’s executive director was in Kingston Monday to discuss the findings.
Attorney Michelle Quinn of HKQ Kids joined PennPIRG to release the report at a press conference held at the offices of Hourigan Kluger & Quinn.
Megan DeSmedt, PennPIRG state director, said the Trouble in Toyland report will help parents and other toy buyers avoid some common hazards.
“Most toys have warnings on the packaging, but many do not have any or have insufficient warnings,” DeSmedt said. She urged toy buyers to carefully read all packaging before purchasing a toy.
DeSmedt displayed a few toys that are considered hazardous to children:
• The Pizza Planet Gift Pak from the Disney movie “Toy Story.” DeSmedt used an empty toilet tissue roll to show the diameter of a child’s esophagus. She said the figurines in the gift can easily fit through. If a child swallowed one of them, the child could choke.
• The Kota and Pals Stompers Triceratops. DeSmedt said the toy is loud and could cause hearing loss in children.
• The Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Phone and the Bright Lights Phone by Vtech. DeSmedt said both are loud toys that could result in hearing loss.
• The Pretty Princess Puppy Purse by Claire’s Boutiques. DeSmedt said laboratory tests found phthalates at an alarming concentration.
• Elmo Lunch Bag by Fast Forward New York. Also contained a high concentration of phthalates.
The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report focuses on three categories of toy hazards: toys that may pose choking hazards, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates – used to soften plastics.
PennPIRG noted some progress has been made on toy safety in the past year, thanks to a new law overhauling the CPSC.
U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock Township, was an original co-sponsor of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act that passed in 2008. Carney said the PennPIRG report and additional warnings are very timely at this time of year.
“Parents must be sure that they provide gifts for their children that are not endangering them,” Carney said. “Congress has been fairly aggressive on this issue since 2008. We are watching this closely and while the numbers of recalled toys have improved, there is still concern, especially with online vendors that have accumulated old stock.”
Carney said the CPSC has had 38 toy recalls in 2009, down from 162 recalls in 2008 and 148 in 2007.
“It’s obvious that toy manufacturers are paying attention and are manufacturing safer toys,” Carney said. “Many toys are found to be in violation and are prohibited from even reaching store shelves. But when you consider there are hundreds of thousands of vendors, it’s very difficult to reach them all, but we have seen a dramatic improvement.”
DeSmedt said the findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect America’s children. She said:
• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under 3, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. Between 1990 and 2008, at least 196 children died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part; three died in 2008 alone.
• Some toys tested exceeded 85 decibels sound level, which is the volume threshold established under American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss.
• Earlier this year, toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates were banned. Still, PennPIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2 percent.
According to the most recent CPSC data, toy-related injuries sent more than 82,000 children under 5 to emergency rooms in 2008 and 19 children died from toy-related injuries that year.
“Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids,” DeSmedt said. “And with our new Web site, parents and other consumers can report toys they think are hazardous so we can investigate them and report them to the federal government.”
HKQ Kids is a nonprofit foundation established by the law firm for the purpose of promoting child safety in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Its mission is to provide safety education programs and promote public awareness of dangerous toys, unsafe conditions at playgrounds, hazardous household products, stranger danger and other hazards that can endanger children. The foundation was established in 2005 and is administered through the Luzerne Foundation.
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