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MASSPIRG Organizer Patrick Nagle demonstrates dangerous toys
The organization PIRG, or Public Interest Research Group, releases the list every year just before the holiday shopping season starts as a way to warn parents and anyone else buying children's toys which ones to avoid.
This year’s list includes everything from a Hot Wheels stunt car that PIRG says is too loud to “Little Hands Love,” a book that invites children to touch materials like cotton inside the book but contains lead in its cover. Other toys contain phthalates, a chemical used to make plastic soft but that can cause reproductive defects if ingested.
Patrick Nagle, an organizer for PIRG’s southeastern Massachusetts chapter, showed the toys to a class of 4- and 5-year-olds at the Kiddie Kampus Child Development Center Tuesday morning, to explain how the toys could be dangerous to them or younger siblings. Nagle showed them the not-recommended Hot Wheels stunt car, as well as Cookie Monster’s MP3 Player, which isn’t technically too loud but exceeds limits when placed close to the ear for too long. Because the player looks like a cell phone, kids will naturally place it to their ear, he said.
Another toy that contained small pieces was deemed OK because it contained a warning label.
Anne Nunes, the center’s director, said Kiddie Kampus carefully reviews all toys and other potential hazards before allowing them near children.
PIRG’s list, called Trouble in Toyland, has led to 150 recalls and other actions, including passage in 2008 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which enforces stricter hazardous materials limits and increases surveillance of imported toys and other children's products. The legal limit for lead, for example, was lowered from 300 parts per million to 100. PIRG still recommends less than 40, Nagle said.
Though 25 toys are featured on this year’s list, the organization said far more toys are on shelves that pose potential hazards. The report is available at www.toysafety.net.
This year’s report, the 26th annual, comes at a time when budget cuts threaten to eliminate consumer safety regulations, PIRG said. Despite improvements in safety standards and increased awareness, toys still caused 17 children's deaths in 2010 and more than 250,000 emergency room visits in 2009, the most recent year with data available, according to the group. Of the 17 deaths, five were from choking on balloons, three from choking on balls and three from choking on other toys or toy parts.
PIRG and other groups advise checking to see if a toy is a choking hazard by seeing whether it can fit into a cardboard toilet paper roll. A toy is considered too loud if it is louder than 85 decibels, or 65 decibels for toys that are used close to the ear.
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