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Parents Beware — Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

SALISBURY – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, Maryland Public Interest Research Group recently announced in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report. 

Maryland PIRG released its report, which reveals the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards, with Tammy Griffin of Safe Kids Maryland and Dr. Katherine Layton, which also includes guidance for avoiding common hazards. 

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still danger in the toy box,” said Maryland PIRG’s Carly Mercer. “Maryland PIRG’s report and the resources we offer will help consumers identify and avoid the worst threats and keep their children safe this year,” she said.

Griffin stressed the importance of toy safety at this time of year, saying that “during the holidays there are often children of mixed ages playing together, and lots of exciting new toys. To be safe, parents should check for small parts, strangulation hazards, and toxics that shouldn’t be chewed on. Many unsafe toys slip through the cracks and make it to store shelves, so always check toys twice.”

For 25 years, the Maryland PIRG 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.

The group also provides an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smartphones at

Key findings from the report include: 

  • In 2009, many toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates were banned. Still, Maryland PIRG found children’s products, including a baby doll that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 30 percent. 
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards, including a toy train with a wooden peg that, while compliant with current standards, nearly led to the choking death of a DC-area toddler. 
  • Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but Maryland PIRG researchers found toys containing toxic lead and antimony on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body, and antimony is classified as a human carcinogen. Laboratory testing revealed one preschool book with antimony far above the limits and Maryland PIRG has notified the CPSC. 

Maryland PIRG noted that progress has been made on toy safety in the past two years thanks to a 2008 PIRG-backed law overhauling the CPSC, as well as new leadership at the agency. 

“The CPSC is doing a good job under its expanded authority, but there is still more work to be done, especially when it comes to eliminating choking hazards and regulating the tens of thousands of chemicals that are in the toys our children play with every day,” said Mercer.

According to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 250,000 children – 90,000 under the age of five – to emergency rooms in 2009. Twelve children died from toy-related injuries that year.