On Eve of Holiday Shopping, Consumer Advocates Say Vigilance Needed in Children’s Product Safety

Congress must be ‘watchful,’ fund consumer safety commission, advocates say.

November 22, 2016, 6:24 PM

THE ABC NEWS FIXER— -- On the eve of the holiday shopping season -- and amid concern that the incoming administration of Donald Trump might roll back gains in safety regulations -- consumer advocates on Tuesday released their annual report on unsafe children’s toys.

The 31st annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, released by U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and environmental advocacy organization, notes the gains made since 2008, when Congress last overhauled consumer product safety.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the top Democrat on the House subcommittee that deals with product safety, told ABC News she will be “watchful” as the new administration takes shape.

Of Trump’s stated goal to cut government regulations, Schakowsky said, “I don’t know how sweeping a deregulation agenda it will be,” adding that, “we have made so much progress, to go backward would be absolutely unconscionable.”

Schakowsky said she hopes the bipartisan spirit that led to the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will prevail. That legislation passed the House on an overwhelming 424-1 vote while Republican President George W. Bush was president.

Earlier, Schakowsky spoke at a Chicago press conference where safety advocates pointed to the good news. Namely, greater scrutiny of products containing toxic lead and phthalates, as well as the launch of SaferProducts.gov – a database where parents can easily find recall information.

PHOTO: A Christmas toy decoration is pictured in this undated stock photo.
A Christmas toy decoration is pictured in this undated stock photo.
Getty Images

Even so, some recalled products still slip through.

When USPIRG researchers shopped online for 44 toys and children’s products recalled between January 2015 and October 2016, they found 16 still available for purchase online, according to Abraham Scarr, director of the Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

Sometimes retailers don’t pull the items quickly enough. In other cases, recalled products are resold on the secondary market.

A 2014 ABC News “20/20” investigation found used, recalled items being widely sold on Craigslist.

USPIRG, the Consumer Federation of America as well as Kids in Danger have all called on Congress to continue funding the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – the federal agency tasked with monitoring everything from washing machines to hoverboards.

The report also recommends the CPSC conduct regular online checks to see whether recalled products are still on the market.

At the Chicago event today, organizers displayed recalled items such a children’s beanbag chair that can pose a suffocation threat when unzipped, a pencil case with tiny powerful magnets that can cause serious injury or death if swallowed, and a preschool glockenspiel (a type of musical instrument) that contained lead paint.

Consumers can do their part by reporting unsafe products and checking recalls at SaferProducts.gov, signing up to receive recall notices at Recalls.gov, and learning about safety at the non-profit Kids in Danger website.

Parents and caregivers also should keep toys for older children away from younger kids, and be aware of choking hazards especially with rounded items that are small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube. Those should never be given to a child under age 3.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that three organizations had called on Congress to continue funding the CPSC in the report released on Tuesday. While the organizations have made such calls, that was not in Tuesday's report.

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