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Bruce Speight,
WISPIRG Foundation

Parents Beware - Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

New Mobile Toy Tool Can Help Parents Shop Safe

Madison, Nov. 24 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) announced on Tuesday in its 24th annual Trouble in Toyland report.  The group also highlighted the need for state action to protect children from bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic chemical linked to cancer, diabetes, early onset puberty, obesity and hyperactivity that is commonly found in baby bottles and sippy cups.

The latest Trouble in Toyland report, along with a new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer – http://toysafety.mobi or http://www.toysafety.net - will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common hazards.

And if toy buyers discover they have bought a dangerous toy, they can report it to WISPIRG using the new interactive website. Consumers should also report dangerous products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids,” said WISPIRG’s Bruce Speight.

“And with our new, interactive tool, parents and other consumers can report toys they think are hazardous so we can investigate them and report them to the federal government,” he added.

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report  – and the interactive website reachable from mobile phone or computer – focus on three categories of toy hazards: toys that may pose choking hazards, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates.

WISPIRG noted that some progress has been made on toy safety in the past year, thanks to a new law overhauling the CPSC.

“But there’s no magic wand to fix the CPSC, and making products safer won’t happen overnight,” said Speight. “Restoring consumer confidence in the products we buy will take continued hard work on the part of the CPSC and responsible retailers and manufacturers.”

The findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect American’s children:

    Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. Between 1990 and 2008, at least 196 children died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part; three died in 2008 alone.

    Some toys tested exceeded 85 decibels sound level, which is the volume threshold established under American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss.

    Earlier this year, toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Still, WISPIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2%.

    Lead was severely restricted in toys earlier this year, but WISPIRG researchers found lead-laced toys on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body. One preschool book contained lead paint far above the new limits and WISPIRG notified the CPSC.

“We’re encouraged that Toys R Us stopped the sale of this particular book once we notified the CPSC of the lead paint violation,” Speight noted. “We hope we can continue to see this kind of progress in protecting kids from all toy hazards.”

But one store chain removing one book from its shelves is not enough to keep the country’s children from harm.

In fact, according to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 82,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2008. Nineteen children died from toy-related injuries that year.

That’s why the PIRG federation developed the interactive tool – http://toysafety.mobi or http://www.toysafety.net – that allows shoppers to check on possible hazards, as well as report hazards they find.

Nicole Vesely, Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator, added “Many toy-related injuries can occur when parents overestimate their child's ability to handle a toy designated for an older age group. Parents and caregivers should consider whether a toy is appropriate for the child's age and abilities and whether the gift requires protective gear such as helmets or knee pads.”

In addition this year, WISPIRG highlighted the dangers of BPA.  BPA leaches from baby bottles and sippy cups and puts our children’s development at risk.  WISPIRG is working with State Senator Julie Lassa and State Representative Kelda Helen Roys to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups by passing the BPA Free Kids Act (SB271, AB405), a bill similar to one that has already passed in Minnesota and other state and municipal legislative bodies across the country.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s products,” said Representative Kelda Helen Roys, lead sponsor of the BPA Free Kids Act in the Assembly.  “Parents shouldn’t have to be chemists to know if baby bottles and sippy cups are safe for their kids.”

“By banning BPA in empty baby bottles and sippy cups for children 5 years old and younger, we can help to protect kids from the harmful effect of bisphenol-A in the most important years of their brain development,” said State Senator Julie Lassa, lead sponsor of the BPA Free Kids Act in the Senate.

For 24 years, the WISPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

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