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November 29, 2013

Advocacy group releases annual list of dangerous toys

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
From left, Erica Surman, from Beaumont Hospital; State Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw; and Eric Mosher, a consumer advocate from Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, announce the year’s list of potentially hazardous toys. It is the 28th year PIRGIM has released its Trouble in Toyland survey.

In time for the shopping season, the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan released its 28th annual Trouble in Toyland toy safety survey Nov. 26, providing a list of toys that the organization sees as potentially hazardous for children.

“The message today is clear,” Eric Mosher, an advocate from PIRGIM, said during a press conference inside Safety City U.S.A. “We need to protect our littlest consumers from unsafe toys.”

The organization, a Michigan consumer advocacy group, named 20 toys that it says are too dangerous to buy for children but were still found on toy-store shelves.

Mosher said that the organization visited several retail stores and randomly bought items marketed toward children. He said PIRGIM then sent them for testing.

“These are the ones we have determined to be in violation of the (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act), or should be in violation of it,” Mosher said.

The survey covered toys that PIRGIM determined to be toxic because of the chemicals in the paint they use, to be choking hazards or that could cause internal damage if swallowed — particularly toys with small magnets.

One item they felt should be in violation was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil case. PIRGIM said the bag contained levels of cadmium and phthalates that exceed the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act for toys. Both chemicals, PIRGIM says, are considered toxic.

“Unfortunately, because it is considered a pencil case and not a children’s toy, it is not covered under the law in the same way,” Mosher said.

Another factor parents must consider before purchasing toys for their children is loud noise.

The law limits noise from hand-held toys to 85 decibels when measured from 10 inches away and 65 decibels for toys meant to be held close to a child’s face — about 1 inch away.

Since most parents don’t have a way to measure decibels in the store, Erica Surman, from Beaumont Hospital, said during the press conference that she has a simple solution.

“If you hold it up to your ear and it’s too loud for you, it’s probably too loud for your kids,” Surman said.

Since PIRGIM has been putting on the survey, Mosher said it has led to several recalls and made toys safer for children. The organization points to the decrease in recalls across the country as a sign.

As of November, PIRGIM said there have been 31 recalls this year. That’s down from last year, which saw 36 recalls, and 2007, which had 93 recalls.

The complete Trouble in Toyland survey can be downloaded at www.pirgim.org.

State Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, said after the press conference that there are additional steps Michigan lawmakers can take to make buying toys safer for the state’s children.

For example, Kahn has introduced a bill that would form a Children’s Safety Products Council. He said the bill is still in committee within the Senate.

His vision is that it would be a new entity within the Department of Community Health that would require toy manufacturers to disclose any chemicals the toys contain.

If passed, Kahn said the state couldn’t prevent the unlabeled products from coming into Michigan, but the state can stop stores from selling them.

“The state can’t prevent their importation, but for the people that sell them, the state can require them to return the products,” he said. “That’s what we did with lead-based paints.”

Calls to the Toy Industry Association for comment were not returned as of press time.

Additionally, attempts to reach Innovative Design, the manufacturer of the pencil bag, were unsuccessful.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.