As parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins head out to shop for little ones this holiday, they face the challenge of not only finding toys that the kids will like, but also of finding toys that are safe. Each year, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) researches and tests hundreds of toys to determine how safe they are for children.
In previous years, the level of lead in children’s toys was a big problem and led to numerous product recalls. In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed, and one of the subjects it covers is the amount of lead allowed in items for kids. The act required that the amount of lead in children’s toys be no more than 600 parts per million on the date the act was enacted and subsequently reduced over the course of a year down to 100 parts per million. If the manufacturer claimed a certain product could not be made within the lead limits set by the act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would review the product and determine the amount of lead below 300 parts per million allowed for that specific product. If the Commission determined that a part of a toy was “not accessible to a child through normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse,” that particular part could contain higher levels of lead. These levels are set to be reviewed every five years to determine whether or not the lead amount could be lowered.
This year, in testing about 36 toys for lead and other toxic substances, PIRG only found one action figure toy that tested too high for lead, a big improvement over previous years before the new act was passed. Toys that pose a choking hazard or are very loud were also a high priority for PIRG this year. Small magnetic toys designed for adults were a major concern. Not only is it dangerous if one magnet is swallowed, but if more than one are swallowed, the danger is multiplied because the magnets can attach to each other, potentially damaging internal organs and causing serious injury to children. Other choking hazards included small plastic foods meant to be used with play kitchens and small plastic bands found on the tires of little racing cars that could come off and be swallowed.