In the news

ConnPIRG
|
New Haven Register
By
Michelle Tuccitto Sullo

HARTFORD — Stores still stock toys with hazardous chemicals and potential choking hazards, according to a new report, and consumer advocates and state officials are warning parents to be vigilant while shopping this holiday season.

The Connecticut Public Interest Research Group unveiled its 25th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report Tuesday at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“We celebrate a quarter-century of making toys safer,” said Jennifer Hatch, consumer advocate with ConnPIRG. “We have made a lot of progress, but parents must be vigilant to protect children.”

Among its findings, the report said that despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under age 3, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards, such as a Lokmock toy train with a wooden peg that, while compliant with standards, nearly led to the choking death of a year-old toddler, according to Conn-PIRG.

The report calls for a change to the definition of “small part” to include parts that are larger than the current standard, but have been shown to pose a choking hazard. It also calls for manufacturers and retailers to stop producing and selling balloons aimed at children under age 8, as balloons pose a choking hazard.

In 2009, many toys containing more than 0.1 percent phthalates — a chemical used to make plastics more flexible — were banned, but ConnPIRG found children’s products, including a baby doll, with concentrations of phthalates of up to 30 percent.

Phthalates can hurt reproductive and developmental health, the report said.

While toxic materials such as metals have been severely restricted in toys the last two years, researchers found toys containing lead and antimony, a carcinogen, on store shelves.

“We still have a long way to go getting toxins out of toys our children play with every day,” Hatch said. “We remind parents to be careful, especially with toys given to children under age 3.”

The report urges consumers to be vigilant and remember that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “does not test all toys, and not all toys on store shelves meet CPSC standards.”

Children under age 3 are particularly at risk for choking, as young children tend to put objects in their mouths, Hatch said.

An easy at-home test is to take an empty toilet paper tube and if a toy or any part of it fits through the tube, then it is not an appropriate toy for a child younger than 3, according to Hatch.

Dr. Steven Rogers, an emergency medicine pediatrician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said most visits to the emergency room are accidents involving riding toys or choking hazards.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said many injuries and deaths are preventable. He said there was a rise in emergency room visits for toy-related injuries from 2005 to 2009, with visits going from about 200,000 to 250,000.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data shows that of the 250,000 toy-related emergency room visits in 2009, 90,000 involved children under age 5, and at least 12 children died from toy-related injuries that year.

Attorney General-elect George Jepsen also said any child’s death because of a toy is a preventable accident.

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