SALEM — While toys may have gotten safer over the past three decades, there are still some on store shelves that parents need to be vigilant about, says Connor Holland, a recent Salem State University graduate and campus organizer with MASSPIRG Students.
Unsafe toys, Holland said, may have detectable dangers such as choking hazards, could contain hidden toxins such as lead or boron, or are still being sold in stores or online despite being recalled.
At Salem Community Child Care Center on Thursday, in the wake of the holiday shopping season, Holland demonstrated some toys that are representative of concerns listed in the 34th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report.
The report was released Thursday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
"We want to make sure that parents make educated choices and keep their kids safe," Holland said.
Levels of borax, a compound that contains boron, were found to exceed European Union safety standards in all four play slime products tested by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, the report said.
Holland said boron is not yet considered illegal in toys under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act. But the level of boron found in a slime product Holland had on display, the DIY 3-Pack of Rainbow Cosmic Slime Shakers, was an amount 75 times the European Union standard. The report says the package also lacked clear warning labels not to ingest the slime.
Ingesting moderate to high levels of boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other side effects. Holland said the slime product was not recalled, and it was purchased from a Walmart.
Toys posing a choking hazard continue to be an issue, Holland said.
The Haktoys Fishing Game toy set Holland had on display had fish pieces about the size of a quarter that could pose a choking hazard for small children under the age of 3. The game is marketed to children ages 3 and older. The rule of thumb, Holland said, is an empty toilet paper roll.
"If it can fit through the toilet paper roll, then it's most likely something that is going to be a choking hazard for children," she said.
A Kicko Toy Gun, Blue Light-Up Noise Blaster made sounds that reached more than 87 decibels. According to the report, that level violates standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Holland suggested parents should hold a noisy toy up to their heads. If it sounds too loud, "it's probably going to be too loud for a child's more sensitive hearing system," he said.
Anel Guzman, executive director of Salem Community Child Care Center, said toy safety is an everyday battle there.
"As far safety in toys, that is something that is a requirement no matter what," Guzman said.
The best way to inform parents about what toys are safe for their kids is to model them in the classroom.
"What I tell parents all the time is, if I wouldn't provide it in a classroom, then just be careful if you are going to provide it at home," Guzman said. "So, if the toys are smaller than a quarter, that's automatic risk. As far as slime goes, there's so many recipes with natural products that you can make slime with."
In an email, state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, said she appreciates the work MASSPIRG does to identify dangerous and recalled toys.
"As a parent of three children, I understand first-hand the importance of the work that MASSPIRG does to protect our youngest consumers from the hazards of unsafe toys,” she said.
Holland advised parents and consumers to check out the "Trouble in Toyland" report, which contains a list of more than 150 toys that have been recalled and may still be on the market. More information can be found at www.ToySafetyTips.org.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.