Families often enjoy looking through toy catalogs together this time of year. After seeing what excites your child, you may be tempted to immediately order their holiday gifts. However, before you do, we encourage parents and grandparents to check the Trouble in Toyland report.
The 35th anniversary Trouble in Toyland report was recently released. This year, U.S. PIRG warned about the dangers of:
- Mislabeled choking hazards
- Flocked animal figures (toys with small attached pieces)
- Recalled toys which may still be available online
- Noisy toys
- In-app purchases
- Not advisable for children
Parents are advised to look for small part warnings on toys. “Small part” is not a subjective term. It is anything that fits within the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s toy test cylinder. The test cylinder measures 2.25 inches long and 1.25 inches wide and is roughly the size of a young child’s throat. A small part may be a game piece or a marble of the right size. It may also include a toy accessory, such as doll clothing.
The most common “small parts” warning: “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD–Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years.” Toys designed for children ages 3 through 6 must also carry warning labels indicating they are not safe for children under 3.
Parents can become familiar with the risks by reading this year’s Trouble In Toyland. Make it a priority not to purchase a product with small parts and bring them into your home. Always read toy safety and age appropriate labels. Doing so puts you on a path to protect your family.
If you purchase a toy figurine or doll that comes with accessories, such as ribbons or clothing, remember your child can put those small parts in their mouths. Calico Critters – the popular animal family figures – are now under scrutiny.
One child was killed while playing with a set containing a small pacifier in New Mexico, according to a court filing. Another child in Utah also choked on the pacifier accessory, according to the a local news website, and shared in the Trouble in Toyland report. Both children were under 3 years old.
Fortunately, there are many versions of toys. If you find a toy you like and it has small fabric parts, keep looking until you find one without removable accessories.
Online Toy Shopping
Trouble in Toyland shared a valuable insight about searching for holiday toys on Amazon. If you search for “toys for 2-year-old boys,” for instance, you may see a number of listings which do not provide a small part warning. Do not trust that searching by year means toys are screened for safety. Remember, Amazon is a marketplace of merchants, not just one company. Closely look at product descriptions before making a purchase. In addition to reading reviews, you want to confirm the details. Look at the product picture, then read the description. Double check the product packaging once it arrives by mail and open it to confirm it has the parts you expected.
Beware of recalled toys as well. Since the 2019 Trouble in Toyland, the Consumer Product Safety Commissioned issued 10 toy recalls in the U.S., according to this report. When a product is recalled, it should be immediately removed from the store shelves and online listings. Some toys were still being sold online after recalls. Researchers even found one toy – a Fisher-Price Barbie Dream Camper which was recalled in February 2019 – still on sale. The camper was an outdoor riding toy for children. The CPSC received 17 reports of campers continuing to travel after the foot pedal was released.
Not Advisable For Children
Also featured was a section called, “items not advisable for children.” These items are not really toys, but are given to children as toys. At the top of the list is high-powered magnet desk sets. We wrote about the dangers of high-powered magnet sets last holiday season. Magnet sets may seem like fun gifts for adults, but you should never purchase one because they are so dangerous and the small parts can stick around your home forever. Children can be tempted to play with these magnets and swallow them. At this point, the magnets can attempt to connect together in a child’s stomach. The magnets touched on some serious personal injuries.
In September 2020, a 9-year-old boy took two magnets from a Neutronball building set and placed them on his lip, pretending to have a piercing. He then swallowed them and had to seek medical treatment at a hospital. In May, another 9-year-old swallowed parts from a Zen Magnets LLC set. She hid this from her parents for a week, until she began suffering intense stomach pain. She required surgery, but survived.
Beware of Digital Apps
Parents may be asked to sign up for an app related to a “smart toy” their child received as a gift. Or a child may have received a tablet or cell phone and try to sign up for apps themselves.
While there is a case to be made for limiting your child’s screen time overall, beware of giving your child access to digital apps. These can be tempting and children may like the graphics and thought of winning a prize. The Trouble in Toyland report mentioned one app called Coin Master. This is rated for ages 13 and over, though the graphics may easily capture the attention of a younger child.
We are sharing this story because Coin Master offers in-app purchases. The most expensive option is $99.99. Children may only see higher options once they get into the game.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Our firm is highly experienced in the area of product liability and injuries caused by defective products. We are writing about holiday toy safety as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, where our goal is to protect children from injuries. For the past 8 years, our attorneys have also donated 30,000 bicycle helmets to children across Massachusetts to protect against head injuries.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
There is “Trouble in Toyland.” For the 33rd year, U.S. PIRG has released its annual survey on toy safety. This is a widely respected survey, which over the years has dispensed valuable information to protect children and families. The survey has led to the recall of more than 150 unsafe toys.
Highlights from this year’s report:
- Toys which have been recalled for safety issues over the past year
- Toys which contain high levels of toxic materials, such as boron
- Toys which do not meet labeling requirements
- Toy regulations
Over the past year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced more than 40 recalls of toys and children’s products, such as wagons and strollers. These recalls represent 2.7 million units. During its survey, the group did not find any recalled toys or products still being sold. This is good news for consumers, but you still need to check products for yourself by going online. You can visit the CPSC Recall list.
You can also check the U.S. PIRG’s “Trouble in Toyland” report, so you can be informed while you shop or to see if you have any recalled toys in your home (See Appendix 4, page 29). Many people do not hear about recalls so it’s worth checking.
If you find a recalled product, you can contact the manufacturer for a refund or a repair. In some cases with inexpensive toys, it may be best just to discard it from your home in a safe way. Move onto other toys.
U.S. PIRG has long advocated for improvements to the CPSC’s recall system. One concern is that companies are not required to report how many consumers actually return products for repairs or refunds.
The report focused on two toxic materials in toys: Lead and boron.
Lead. Lead was banned from household paint, children’s products and cookware 40 years ago. But federal law states children’s products made after August 2011 can contain no more than 100 parts per million. Because lead is highly dangerous when breathed in, be careful when buying toys such as paint sets and other products. Electronic devices can contain some lead parts, as can metal components of bicycles. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all products for children contain no more than trace amounts of lead (40 ppm).
Boron. Your child may be begging you to buy one of those popular slime toy sets. U.S. PIRG says you can’t trust these products are safe. Researchers found six slime products on the market had dangerously high levels of boron. One brand, “Kangaroos Original Super Cool Slime,” contained concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm).
Boron is a chemical element used mostly in glass manufacturing, pesticides, antiseptics and detergents. Children can ingest small amounts, even less than 3.68 ppm and suffer symptoms of nausea, vomiting and potentially longer term impacts on reproductive health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports certain levels can even be lethal. Say the “Kangaroos Original Super Cool” slime has up to 4700 parts per million (ppm). Then consider that six states have made recommendations on boron limits in drinking water, non exceeding 1 ppm. It’s a frightening discrepancy. U.S. PIRG has asked the CPSC to explore setting limits on boron levels, as Canada and other countries have.
We recommend parents spend their money elsewhere this year. There are so many toys out there, which your child would enjoy without risk to their safety. Likewise, if your child plays at another friend’s home or goes to daycare, make sure the adult in charge knows you don’t want your child playing with slime sets.
|Slime Toys with Dangerous Levels of Boron|
|Kangaroos Original Super Cool Slime – Amazon – 4700 ppm|
|Kidsco Glow in The Dark Slime – Amazon, Walmart – 4600 ppm|
|Toysmith Jupiter Juice Slime – Amazon, Walmart – 1900 ppm|
|iBaseToy Fluffy Slime – Amazon – 1500 ppm|
|Haniex Soft Magic Crystal Slime – Amazon – 1400 ppm|
|Meland Fluffy Slime Amazon Boron – 1100 ppm|
|Data from U.S. PIRG “Trouble in Toyland” Report 2018.|
Toymakers are responsible for properly labeling their products, especially those with small parts which are not intended for children under age 3. This warning is essential. Children are often putting small parts in their mouths. From 2001 to 2016, more than 110 children died this way, according to U.S. PIRG.
What’s important for consumers to know is the CPSC has a Small Parts Ban. Toys must be tested to make sure they cannot pass through a test cylinder, which has a diameter of 1.25 inches. The cylinder has a slanted bottom, opening 1 to 2.25 inches. If a toy can pass through, it must be properly labeled: WARNING: Choking Hazard-Small Parts. Not for Children Under 3 Yrs.
Researchers identified a few toys which are being sold online without age appropriate labels this year – Hatchimals and L.O.L. Surprise toys. Parents should watch and carefully inspect every purchase you make. A good rule of thumb is to open every toy well in advance of giving it to a young children. Open it out of your children’s reach, such as in a basement.
Balloons are another product which are not being labeled properly. Balloons should come with warnings that they are a potential choking hazard to children under 8 years old. Yet, 87 percent of the latex balloons on Amazon.com carried no warnings, according the survey.
As consumers, we deal with packaging, price tags and shipping dates more than regulations. But the “Trouble in Toyland” report shares three important regulations on page 17:
- Small Parts Ban (1979)
- The Child Safety Prevention Act of 1994
- The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008
Read the 2018 “Trouble in Toyland” report.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244
Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston specializes in handling personal injury and product liability cases. This holiday season, we are committed to sharing toy safety tips as part of Project KidSafe campaign. We wish you a safe and healthy holiday season.
Learn more about our firm: www.bwglaw.com.