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FOR RELEASE: December 12, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

Toy Safety

There are thousands of toys on the market, each promising to educate or entertain our children. Unfortunately, not every toy is safe.

“When it comes to toy safety, that’s probably the biggest mistake most parents make - assuming that every toy on the shelf has been tested for safety,” said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Hazardous toys can still be found on store shelves across the country despite passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act, which was supposed to protect children from unsafe toys.

The annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) toy safety report, available on the Web at www.toysafety.net has resulted in more than 100 recalls and other enforcement actions in the last 17 years.

According to data recently released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2001 there were an estimated 255,100 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. There were 25 reported toy-related deaths, including nine children who choked to death on balloons, toy balls, and small toys.

The annual PIRG “Trouble in Toyland” report highlights potential hazards posed by toys found during a survey of stores in October and November 2002. PIRG cautioned consumers about toy hazards in five categories: choking hazards including balloons, toxic chemicals, hearing loss hazards, scooter dangers, and purchasing toys on the Internet.

Highlights of the report’s findings include:

Choking Hazards: Choking on small toy parts, balloons and small balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths. According to data from the CPSC, at least 207 children died from 1990 to 2000 playing with toys. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act required strict warning labels on toys intended for older children, if the toy contains small parts, marbles, or balls banned for children under 3 years old. Latex balloon warnings specify that balloons should be kept away from children under 8. Mylar balloons are a safer alternative.

Toxic Chemical Hazards: Phthalates are added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic toys as a softener. These chemicals are linked to liver and kidney damage, pose reproductive hazards for male infants and have already been banned by several European countries in toys for children under 3. PIRG has urged the CPSC to approve its recent petition to ban phthalates in products intended for children under 5. The CPSC is expected to act shortly on the petition.

Hearing loss dangers: According to a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 15 percent of children ages 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss. No federal regulations regulate the noise level of toys, but toys with sounds of 85 decibels or over can significantly affect a child’s hearing. Toy givers should be aware of the dangers posed by loud toys.

On-line Toy Sales: In an analysis of 45 online toy retailers, PIRG found that no online retailers posted the warnings required to appear on in-store products, and only two of the 45 included any safety labeling at all, and even these were not posted consistently. Some toys sold on the Internet may be manufactured by companies that do not comply with U.S. toy regulations.

“Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before they make a purchase and should think about how a child would play with the toy,” Collar said.

“While most manufacturers comply with the law, parents should not assume that all toys on store shelves are safe or adequately labeled. Consumers should get PIRG’s Tips For Toy Safety at www.toysafety.net before shopping for toys this holiday season,” she added.

Another way to make a child’s environment safer is to keep current on recalled products. The CPSC recalls thousands of unsafe products each year, including toys and children’s products. Many consumers, however, do not find out about recalled products. One way to do this is to sign up for the CPSC’s e-mail updates on newly recalled products at list.cpsc.gov. Parents can also check out the CPSC’s archive of old recalls at www.cpsc.gov .

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