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WAMC
By
Paul Tuthill

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As people head to the stores and to the internet for holiday shopping consumer groups are issuing warnings about dangerous or toxic toys. The number of toy recalls has fallen, but toy-related injuries and deaths remain high. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Despite a tough federal toy product safety law enacted in 2008, researchers at the Public Interest Research Group found toys for sale that contain hazardous levels of toxins, including lead, and others that pose choking hazards. Isabelle Goodman of MASSPIRG says not all the toys flagged in the groups 26th annual Trouble In Toyland report violate the law.

Starting in January, toymakers are required to have products tested by an independent lab to assure compliance with the 2008 law. Several major retailers already require the independent tests. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported the number of toy recalls this year totaled 34..down sharply from 172 recalls in 2008, the year the new toy safety law was enacted.

But, Goodman says , incredibly , toys containing lead paint remain available, even though lead paint has been banned since the late 1970s.

Another toxin discovered in toys purchased by MASSPIRG shoppers is phthalates, which is used to soften plastic. Exposure to it has been linked to developmental disabilities in young children.

The latest Consumer Product Safety Commission report on toy safety says there were 17 toy related deaths of children younger than 15 last year, five more than the year before. Half the fatalities were caused by choking on small toys.

Choking hazards can be difficult to regulate. Batteries in toys and remote controls present a growing danger, according to the advocacy group SafeKids USA. It says the number of injuries and deaths from batteries has quadrupled in five years.

MASSPIRG says it also found toys that are potentially harmful to children's ears, because of noisemakers that exceed standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness The group sites the Hot Wheels Twin Duction race car as an example.

Massachusetts State Representative Angelo Puppolo of Springfield , who is a member of the legislature's Conumer Protection Committee, says it is critical to raise awareness about dangerous toys.

MASSPIRG has an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that can be accessed on smart phones. It is at www.Toysafety.mobi. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a new database of recalled products and potential hazards at saferproducts.gov.