From stuffed animals with tiny parts, to sparkly nail polish with toxic chemicals, the holiday gift you pick up for children could pose hidden hazards, a new consumer report says.
There were over a quarter of a million toy-related injuries and 25 toy-related deaths last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To help parents spot potential dangers on the shelves, the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released its 17th annual list of potentially hazardous toys this week, with everything from excessively loud toy phones to a "special agent" dart gun making the list.
"Parents should not assume all toys are safe," Jen Thompson, U.S. PIRG's consumer advocate told Good Morning America. "While most manufacturers comply with the law, they should examine the products carefully, look for dangers — and think about how a child would play with the toy."
One of the top dangers for children, under age three or even as old as six, is potentially choking on small parts included in toys. A small part is anything that does not fit through a "choking tube," designed to see if something would get caught in a child's airway. For instance, the Sully and Boo doll from Disney was recalled this month because of its small parts. (More details on model below.) Disney is the parent company of ABCNEWS.com.
Another dangerous category of toys is balloons, which also create a choking hazard.
"Of all the choking deaths last year, balloons caused the most because children try to blow it up, but inhale it, and it gets stuck in the airway," Thompson said. Balloons should come with a warning that they should not be sold to children under 8, she said.
Small balls or other round objects also create a choking hazard because they can completely fill a child's airway.
Toys made with poly vinyl chloride often have a chemical called phthalates added to soften them.
"The problem is that they are not bound to the poly vinyl," Thompson said. "They leak out. If children put it into their mouth at high levels there's a risk. Studies linked it to reproduction problems and liver and kidney damage."
Noisy toys should also be left on the shelf. Products that make noise beyond 85 decibels can cause hearing loss, with repeated exposure.
Here are the results of the 2002 Public Interest Research Group's list of potentially hazardous toys, from its report, Trouble in Toyland. To get more toy-buying tips, and the full report, go to http://www.toysafety.net/
Contains Small Parts
The following contain small parts that fit inside a "choke tube" designed to spot toys that could create a choking hazard for children under 3 or as old as 6. Some of the products also do not have a Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA) choke hazard warning.
Parents can improvise a choke tube by using an empty toilet paper roll. If a toy fits easily inside the cardboard tube, it is a potential choking hazard for children.
Sully and Boo Doll, Item #DN 18602, Bar Code, 41202224048. Disney; The Disney Store, $19.50. (This item was recalled Nov. 2002. PIRG knows of no other hazards with any Sully or Monsters, Inc. product currently available.)
Clifford the Big Red Dog Wind-Up Toy; Toy Island Manufacturing; KB Toys; $1.99.
Lovely Kids Jewelry Set; Unknown manufacturer, Made in China; Value Mart, $1.50.
Play Doh Party Pack with Cutters. Hasbro; Family Dollar;
Educational Toy IQ 200, 136-piece building block set. Item #709. Unknown manufacturer. Made in China. Variety Store, $5
Hello Kitty 5-Piece Stamp Set; Sanrio Co., Flights of Fancy; $5.99.
Lego Racing Car 25-piece Building Set. Labeled 1251: item #4153053. The Lego Group, KB Toys, 3 for $5.
Balloons as Choking Hazards
Happy First Birthday Balloons. Item #55905. Unique Industries, Yuhai Dollar Plus, $1. Has proper statutory choke warning, but is inappropriate because the targeted audience is younger than 8.
Happy 2nd, 3rd, 4th Birthday Balloons, Labeled Eldo/Auto IK 01030; Pioneer Balloon co., Party N' Paper; Has proper statutory choke warning, but is inappropriate because the targeted audience is younger than 8.
Assorted Balloons: Unknown manufacturer; The Paper Store, $1. Sold loose in bins, without choking hazard labels.
Small Ball Ban Violation
Toys fail the "small ball" test.
Hello Kitty Super Bouncy Ball, Labeled 300 [92466-1] 3.25.; Sanrio Co., Zany Brainy, $3.25.
Foam Baseball. Coolballs; Claire's Boutiques, 99 cents;
Two-color Striped Rubber Balls, Unknown manufacturer; Flights of Fancy.
Multi-colored bouncy balls: Manufacturer: unknown; Massachusetts Rest Area, 25 cents.
Clear ball with ring: Manufacturer: unknown; Massachusetts Rest Area, 25 cents.
Near-Small Parts: products that fail small ball test and/or small part test
Lil' Chefs 50-Piece Play Food Set Item #9252. Geoffrey, Inc.; Toys 'R Us;
Lil' Chefs Play Food Oversized Bucket; Geoffrey, Inc.; Toys 'R US
Lacks Warning Labels
Musical Mobile, Manufacturer: Unknown. Made in China. Store: Distribuidora El Salvador Del Mundo; $12.99.
No ASTM warning to remove mobile when child reaches 5 months old or begins to push self up on hands and knees.
Special Agent set with dart gun, whistle, baton, badge and handcuffs. Bar Code has "KK-042" above. Manufacturer: Unknown. King Discount The rubber suction cup can break off the darts, creating a sharp, hard projectile.
Sanrio pink glitter nail polish; Sanrio Co.; Flights of Fancy; Contains dibutyl phthalate, which studies have linked to reproductive damage, mutations, and eye and skin irritation.
Yob Cosmetic Set; Geoffrey, Inc.; Toys 'R Us; Contains xylene, which can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation in the short term; in the long term, xylene can affect memory and concentration and damage the liver and kidneys.
Little Squirts Little Fire Truck Book. ISBN #0-375-81041-2. Random House, Inc. Kramerbooks and Afterwords; $4.99 Made out of PVC plastic, which contains phthalates.
Little Squirts Baby's Shower Book. ISBN # 0375-81041-2. Random House, Inc.; Kramerbooks and Afterwords; $4.99. Made out of PVC plastic, which contains phthalates.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish Book; ISBN #0375-81164-8. Random House, Inc.; Marshall's; $ 3.99; Made out of PVC plastic, which contains phthalates.
Hazardous Noise Levels
The National Academy of Pediatrics lists 85 decibels as the threshold for hearing loss. Noise levels between 90 and 100 decibels can cause hearing loss with over 1 to 2 hours of exposure.
Electronic Nursery Rhyme Bus; Tek Nek Toys International, Inc. ;Toys 'R Us; $19.99 Decibels: 97
Electronic School Bus; Tek Nek Toys International, Inc.; Toys 'R Us $19.99. Decibels: 96
Fix It Motorcycle: Empire Industries Inc. Store; Toys 'R Us; $19.99 Decibels: 97
Growing Smart Lap Top Computer; Fisher-Price Little People; Toys 'R Us; $29.99; Decibels: 100
Learning Lessons Computer; Fisher-Price Blue's Clues; Toys 'R Us Decibels: 95
Cyclone Fazer & Saber; Power Gear SRM ;Toys 'R Us; $12.99 Decibels: 101
Typhoon Fazer & Saber; Power Gear SRM Store; Toys 'R Us; $9.99 Decibels: 102
Star Blaster Set; Power Gear SRM; Toys 'R Us; $19.99. Decibels: 100
Buzz Lightyear Blaster; Mattel-Disney-Pixar Toy Story 2 Store; Toys 'R Us Decibels: 96
Puppy Phone; Leap Frog; KB Toys; $6.99 Decibels: 94
Musical Lights Phone; Fisher Price 123 Sesame Street Store: KB Toys $15.99; Decibels: 95
Laser Rifle; Agglo; KB Toys; $10.99. Decibels: 95
Pulsating Fazer; Power Gear SRM Store: KB Toys; $7.99 Decibels: 96
Fire Engine Flashlight; Playwell; KB Toys; $6.99 Decibels: 99