A consumer advocacy group is warning Iowans to be vigilant when it comes to buying toys for children this holiday season. The Iowa Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in its 26th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, notes dangerous and toxic toys can still be found on store shelves.
Sonia Ashe, with Iowa PIRG, put several such toys on display Tuesday at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines – including a book that was found to be breaking federal standards for toxins. “This is seven times the legal federal limit,” Ashe said while turning the book’s pages. “Considering this book is targeted toward infants and encourages them to touch or even taste the items in the book, that’s entirely unacceptable.”
There’s also a federal ban on small parts in toys for children under three, but Ashe said many toys are available that pose choking hazards. Doctor Vidya Chande, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Blank, regularly deals with serious injuries to children from toys.
“I’ve seen children who’ve choked on jacks or have gotten a little superball stuck,” Chande said. “These are life-threatening emergencies for their airway. So it’s very important that parents not only be aware of the toys they’re buying in terms of the leads, chemicals and toxins – but also that they’re age appropriate toys. They need to be aware what works for their seven or eight year old child at home is very unsafe for their toddler.”
Chande said Congress has strengthened regulations to keep unsafe toys out of the hands of children, but they’re still ending up on store shelves. “My main suggestion and recommendation for families is that we shop carefully, look at the labels and be aware of toxins and chemicals that might be in the toys kids are interested in playing with and also buy age appropriate things,” Chande said.
Nationwide, around 175,000 children were taken to hospital emergency departments last year because of toy related injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled 34 toys this year. That’s down from the 170 recalls made in 2008 which prompted the adoption of tougher toy safety standards.