Newest Survey Finds Toxic or Dangerous Toys

Erica Surman and daughter Meadow investigate some of the toys on PIRGIM’s 2011 Trouble in Toyland report

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan’s 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

“Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still a leading cause of toy-related injury. Between 1990 and 2009 more than 200 children have died,” says PIRGIM spokesperson Hess. “While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards, and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead,” she explained. On November 22, PIRGIM representative Meghan Hess was at Safety City U.S.A. to release the latest information on PIRGIM’s annual report. It revealed the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found several toys that pose either choking or noise hazards.

For 26 years, the PIRGIM Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provided 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 smart phones at

PIRGIM's Meghan Hess outlined the 2011 report at Safety City U.S.A.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Some toys still contain high levels of phthalates – a chemical that poses development hazards for small children – at 40 and 70 times allowable limits.
  • Several toys violate current allowable lead limits (300ppm). Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, PIRGIM found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.
  • Toys are still available that can be harmful to children’s ears and exceed the hearing standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

In 2008, Congress placed strict limits on concentrations of lead and phthalates in toys and children’s articles in a law that also gave greater authority and funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Hess noted that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at “We cannot, must not, weaken the most basic safety rules that protect young children, America’s littlest consumers,” said Hess.

Read the full 2011 Trouble in Toyland report here.

PIRGIM, the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being.

Safety City U.S.A. is the first nonprofit, injury prevention/safety education center in Michigan. The year-round safety center in Royal Oak is a collaborative effort of Beaumont Hospital and the Royal Oak Fire and Police departments.

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