Each year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group visits national toy stores, malls and dollar stores from September through November, looking for potentially dangerous toys being sold. The independent consumer group also examines recall and other regulatory notices for its annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. Investigators focus on toys that pose a potential toxic, choking, strangulation or noise hazard.
Lead, phthalates and magnets continue to be hazards in toys, according to the 2012 report. Especially worrisome are magnet toys, including the Buckyball, that already are the focus of court cases, the group said. The neodymium iron boron magnets in these toys are so strong they can severely pinch fingers; they can also cause severe internal damage if swallowed. An estimated 1,700 emergency room cases nationwide between 2009 and 2011 involved the ingestion of such magnets – more than 70 percent of the cases involving children between 4 and 12.
The 2012 “Trouble in Toyland” report also warned consumers to beware of small toy parts, small balls, marbles and balloons that can choke children. More than 200 children died from choking between 1990 and 2011. Noisy toys can damage a child's hearing, the group says. A Dora the Explorer guitar tested by investigators exceeded the recommended limit for continuous exposure of 85 decibels, which can cause gradual hearing loss.
For toy safety tips, visit www.toysafety.mobi.