Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards Calls Passage of Strong Reforms Good Step Forward, But Warns "Buyer Beware"

For Immediate Release

US PIRG
Contact: 

Ed Mierzwinski, 202-546-9707
Steve Blackledge, 916-448-4516

Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards Calls Passage of Strong Reforms Good Step Forward, But Warns "Buyer Beware"

WASHINGTON - Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, despite
a new law overhauling the nation's product safety watchdog agency,
according to the 23rd annual toy safety survey
released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The group
also warned that the Consumer Product Safety Commission may delay one
of the new law's toxic toy protections indefinitely.

"While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a major step
forward, many of its protections don't take effect until 2009, so it's
still ‘buyer beware' for this shopping season," said U.S. PIRG Public
Health Advocate Liz Hitchcock. "Worse, last week the CPSC told
companies that they could keep selling toys with toxic phthalate
chemicals until they ran out of them, despite the law's clear
prohibition against selling them after Feb. 10."

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC), toy-related injuries sent more than 80,000 children
under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2007. Eighteen children
died from toy-related injuries that year.

For 23 years, the PIRG "Trouble in Toyland" report has offered
safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and has
provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose
potential safety hazards.

Because the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed
in August 2008, established new standards for lead and phthalates,
PIRG's research this year used laboratory tests to identify toys that
contain those toxic chemicals.

Among the findings of the 2008 Trouble In Toyland:

Toxic Phthalates: Numerous scientists have documented the
potential health effects of exposure to phthalates in the womb or at
crucial stages of development, including (but not limited to)
reproductive defects, premature delivery, early onset of puberty and
lower sperm counts. Effective February 2009, the CPSIA bans toys that
contain concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of a toxic chemical
called phthalates. PIRG found toys that contained concentrations of
phthalates of up to 40 percent.

"Congress clearly intended the new law to stop the sale of toys
containing toxic phthalates in February, but last week's CPSC legal
opinion told manufacturers that they can keep selling the remaining
millions of hazardous toys until they run out, which could take years,"
said Hitchcock. "Congress gave America's littlest consumers the gift of
safety-they should not let the CPSC take it away."

Hitchcock noted that U.S. PIRG and congressional champions intended
to take every possible action to overturn the CPSC decision and restore
the February 2009 ban on sale of toxic phthalate-laden toys.

Lead in Toys and Children's Jewelry: Children exposed to lead
can suffer lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development and even
death. In 2006, a four-year-old died of lead poisoning after he
swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99 percent lead. PIRG
researchers went to just a few stores and easily found three children's
toys containing high levels of lead or lead paint. One piece of jewelry
was 45 percent lead by weight, or more than 750 times current CPSC
action levels.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will eventually ban lead
except at trace amounts in paint or coatings (90 ppm limit as of August
2009) or in any toys, jewelry or other products for use by children
under 12 years old (100 ppm limit as of August 2011 after scheduled
interim reductions beginning February 2009).

"Congress took important steps to address the serious health risks
that lead poses to children, yet consumers can still find lead-laden
children's jewelry and lead painted toys on store shelves until the
protections take effect next year," continued U.S. PIRG's Hitchcock.

Choking Hazards: In 1979, the CPSC banned the sale of toys for
children younger than three if they contain small parts. The 1994 Child
Safety Protection Act required an explicit prominent choke hazard
warning on toys with small parts for children aged between three and
six. Researchers found toys with small parts for children under the age
of six that lacked the required explicit choke hazard warning.

"The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act gave the CPSC the tools
it needs to do a better job," said Hitchcock. "Now it's up to Congress
to fully fund those tools and for the CPSC to vigorously carry out its
new responsibilities."

Hitchcock also reminded parents that the toy list in the PIRG report
is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves, and urged
consumers to shop with a copy of PIRG's Tips for Toy Safety.

"Shoppers should remember to examine all toys carefully for hidden
dangers before making a purchase this holiday season," concluded
Hitchcock.

Download the full report.

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