Seattle – Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to Washington Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Foundation’s 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping for children’s gifts.
The report exposes fidget spinners full of lead, inadequately-labeled toys and balloons that pose a choking hazard, and data-collecting toys that may violate children’s privacy and other consumer protection laws. We also provide a list of toys that have been recalled over the past year.
“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for children’s presents,” said Elise Orlick, Director of the WashPIRG Foundation.
For more than 30 years, the WashPIRG Foundation’s 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. Over the years, our reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.
Key findings from the report include:
As toymakers produce more and more products that are part of the “Internet of Things,” data collection and the sharing of consumer information become greater concerns. For example, we list a doll, “My Friend Cayla,” which we found at Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, which has been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission because it may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. In July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning to consumers to “consider cybersecurity prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes.”
Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found several toys that contain small parts, but do not have any warning label at all. These included a peg game, golf, and football travel games that we found at Dollar Tree.
Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. We found five balloon sets on store shelves from Dollar Tree (H2O Blasters – Water Balloons and Disney Princess Punchball Balloons), Party City (Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs and Mega Value Pack 14 Latex Punch Balloons), and Dollar City Plus (Party Balloons - 10) that are either marketed to children under eight or have misleading warning labels that make it appear that they are safe for children between ages three and eight.
We found two fidget spinners from Target which had dangerously high levels of lead, well over the federal legal limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products. We tested for lead at a lab which is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass which we purchased at Target and is distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C.: the center circle tested for 33,000 ppm of lead, which is more than 300 times the legal limit for lead in children’s products.
Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal which we also purchased at Target and is distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C.: the center circle tested for 1,300 ppm of lead.
On November 10th, Target announced that it will be removing the two fidget spinner models from its store shelves. Target had initially balked at our request to do so, citing a CPSC rule stating that general use products directed at adults don’t need to follow the same lead guidelines as children’s products directed at children 12 and under. The two models of fidget spinners we found were labeled for ages 14 and up. Our staff found them in the toy aisles at four Targets around the country. At the time of testing, the Target.com website even included a statement that the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass is recommended for children ages 6 and up, which was misleading.
Now, the CPSC, Target, and Bulls i Toy need to ensure that these two fidget spinners are recalled, so that people who have already purchased the products won’t suffer any health consequences from playing with them.
"Parents shouldn't have to be chemical experts to know what products to avoid when shopping for their kids,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director for Toxic-Free Future. “The most effective way to protect kids from toxic chemicals in products is not to use the chemicals in the first place. Fortunately Washington state is making progress on getting chemicals out of toys and other children's products. Thanks to a new law effective this year, children's products no longer contain certain harmful flame retardants. We also have laws banning lead, cadmium, and BPA in products. But there are numerous chemicals that must still be addressed. It's up to policymakers and manufacturers to protect kids by adopting strong policies."
Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:
Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov;
Shop with WashPIRG Foundation’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org;
Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at SaferProducts.gov;
Review the recalled toys in this report and compare them to toys in your children’s toy boxes;
Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples of potentially-dangerous toys. Our list is not exhaustive and other hazards may exist;
Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths;
Eliminate small magnet hazards from your home;
Be aware that toys connected to the Internet, as well as apps and websites, that may be collecting information about children inappropriately. Learn more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA);
Make sure that the hoverboards you own contain a UL2272-certification sticker from the product-testing group Underwriters Laboratories. However, even UL2272 compliance cannot guarantee that a hoverboard will not overheat or catch fire.
View our full Trouble in Toyland report at our website at www.washpirgfoundation.org. Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at toysafetytips.org.