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November 27, 2013

Hazard toys highlighted in MASSPIRG report

SALEM — Cam Ostrow brought several new toys to the Salem Community Child Care Center yesterday morning, but the kids weren’t allowed to play with them.

Hidden behind the colorful packaging, Ostrow said, are toys that can be dangerous for children. And they’re available on store shelves this holiday season.

Ostrow, a consumer advocate with MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group), came to the center yesterday to highlight hazards reported in the organization’s 28th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. The report has led to more than 150 recalls over the years.

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which can be harmful to children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that could damage hearing, and toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

“We found these toys everywhere, from little stores like dollar stores to big retail stores like Toys R Us,” Ostrow said.

The items considered dangerous included a Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pencil case and a Fisher-Price “Laugh and Learn” remote. There were also small toys that cause a choking hazard and highly magnetic toys, which are dangerous when swallowed.

Choking hazards are considered the No. 1 danger, Ostrow said.

The pencil bag contains high levels of cadmium and phthalates, both of which are toxic, Ostrow said. Phthalates are used to soften plastics. The pencil case contains 150 times more phthalates than the legal limit for toys or child care articles, she said — but it’s still legal.

“This toy actually doesn’t break any federal standards despite having higher levels of the highly toxic [material],” she said.

“Unfortunately, a little loophole for this toy is it can be argued that it is not a toy or a child care article, so it is allowed to have those high levels of phthalates. But we know that any children with this product or a product intended to be used by children can easily become a chew toy, especially for younger children.”

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