Trouble In ToyLand - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Trouble In ToyLand

While shoppers will be eagerly snapping up toys for their children this holiday season, one consumer advocacy group is urging vigilance before parents spend a single dollar.

Issuing its 21st annual "Trouble in Toyland" report Tuesday, the Washington-based U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) warned that there are many toys out there that pose significant safety hazards to children.

"While we can report substantial progress after more than two decades of advocacy on behalf of America's littlest consumers, U.S. PIRG's researchers still found trouble in toyland," U.S. PIRG Research Director Alison Cassady, the author of the report, said.

Nearly 73,000 children under the age of five visited the emergency room for toy related injuries in 2005, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and 20 children died from toy-related injuries last year.

PIRG, which visited both toy stores and retailers to find toys carrying safety risks, focused on four specific toy dangers - choking, strangulation, dangerously loud toys and those that contain toxic chemicals.

Choking on small parts, balls or balloons remains the biggest threat posed to children, according to PIRG, particularly from such toys as Wal-Mart's (Charts) Kid Connection Mini Activity Cube.

Hasbro's (Charts) Lincoln Logs Frontier Firehouse was another toy singled out by PIRG that could pose a choking hazard, while Little Tikes' Carry Along Musical Keyboard with Teaching Lights was considered a dangerously loud toy for children by PIRG.

PIRG also warned of a number of toys that contain magnets, which could cause internal harm if swallowed by a child.

"Swallowing a magnet is not like swallowing a penny," said Cassady. "Powerful magnets can wreak havoc inside the body."

The consumer watchdog also said it discovered a number of toys, including cosmetics and jewelry, that contain harmful chemicals, including high concentrations of lead that can cause lead poisoning.

The Toy Industry Association, which represents North American toymakers and distributors, issued a statement in response, claiming that reports produced by groups such as PIRG needlessly frighten parents.

"Toys are an easy target, and we are very concerned by reports that ignore or misinterpret the facts," said the industry group. "Very few of the toys named ever turn out to actually pose a safety concern when played with as designed."

"Consumers should know that toys sold in the United States are the most highly regulated and monitored in the world."

Calls to a number of manufacturers including Hasbro and Little Tikes, whose toys were cited in the report, were not immediately returned.

While most toys were produced by private firms or imported into the U.S. from foreign countries, a number of the toys cited by PIRG were produced by large U.S. companies, including Mattel (Charts).

David Ellis, staff writer

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