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Toy Safety Tips: Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

For Immediate Release:

HARTFORD, Nov. 23 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group announced today in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

ConnPIRG released its report, which reveals the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards, with Connecticut’s current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General-Elect George Jepsen, Jeanne Milstein from the Office of the Child Advocate and Dr. Steven Rogers, an emergency medicine pediatrician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The report also includes guidance for avoiding common hazards.

“We’ve made a lot of progress but even after 25 years we still found trouble in toyland,” said ConnPIRG’s Jenn Hatch. “ConnPIRG’s report and the resources we offer will help parents identify and avoid the worst threats and keep their children safe this year,” she explained.

Connecticut led the nation with the first toy labeling law in the early 1990s, and has continued to be a leader in protecting kids from unsafe products since. For nearly two decades Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has led this charge and today noted his continued commitment to this cause as he moves to the U.S. Congress. “I am pleased that Congress passed the Consumer Protection Safety Act, heeding my longstanding call to strengthen toy safety inspection and enforcement,” said Blumenthal. “As a U.S. Senator, I will fight to build on that significant step, seeking greater federal vigilance to protect children from dangerous toys. Toxic toys can turn holidays in tragedies. Lead, phthalates and small parts are perilous to children, risking injury, illness and even death.”

Continuing a legacy of commitment to protecting our littlest consumers, Attorney General-Elect, George Jepsen noted that “Connecticut has a strong tradition of protecting consumers and as Attorney General, I will continue that tradition. Our children need and deserve special protection because they cannot adequately protect themselves. Let's make sure this holiday season is a safe and happy one for them by choosing toys that meet consumer safety standards, are age appropriate and are used correctly.”

For 25 years, ConnPIRG’s 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 www.toysafety.mobi.

Key findings from the report include:

• 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.

• In 2009, many toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1% of phthalates were banned. Still, ConnPIRG found children’s products, including a baby doll that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 30%.

• Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but ConnPIRG 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 ConnPIRG has notified the CPSC.

ConnPIRG 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 Hatch.

Dr. Steven Rogers, MD, an emergency medicine pediatrician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, noted “one of the biggest dangers are choking hazards so commonly found in toys. These are very real threats that are clearly preventable injuries with the proper legislation and parental education.”

Connecticut’s Child Advocate, Jeanne Milstein, added that “as Chair of the Child Fatality Review Panel, I never want to review a death of a child who died from swallowing a toy, choking on a balloon or any other preventable tragedy. I urge all parents to be vigilant in choosing age appropriate and safe toys.” 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.

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