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Seattle PI
Rita R. Robison

Toys should bring kids joy, but sometimes they bring injury, serious harm, and in some cases, death. However, armed with information, baby boomer parents and grandparents can reduce the chances of selecting a harmful toy.

Get information on tested toys offers a Web site with thousands of toys that have been tested since 2006.

You can find lists of:

• Products with no detected chemicals of concern.
• Products with low concern levels
• Products with medium concern levels
• Products with high concern levels.

Chemicals of concern tested for include lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, PVC, and bromine.

Boomer consumers can use to check out toys they are considering buying or to find ideas for loss toxic toys.

Read about specific unsafe toys

Another source of information is "Trouble in Toyland," a report by the consumer advocacy group WashPIRG, which focuses on toys that are safe and unsafe. It provides information on three categories: toys that (1) may pose choking hazards, (2) are excessively loud, and (3) contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates.

The report discusses these categories and explains what's working and what isn't working in toy regulation. It gives examples of the types of products that have been recalled so that parents and grandparents have more information on buying safe toys.

WashPIRG also offers a new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer – - that includes information from the report.

And if toy buyers discover they've bought a dangerous toy, they can report it to U.S. PIRG using the new interactive Web site. Consumers should also report dangerous products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Find out what still needs to be done on toy safety

Some progress has been made on toy safety in the past year, due to a new law overhauling the commission, Blair Anundson, WashPIRG advocate, said.

However, the findings in this year's "Trouble in Toyland" highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect American's children:

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under 3, toys are still being sold that pose serious choking hazards. Between 1990 and 2008, at least 196 children died after choking or asphyxiating on a toy or toy part; three died in 2008.

• Some toys tested exceeded 85 decibels sound level, which is the volume threshold established under American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Almost 15 percent of children aged 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss.

• Earlier this year, toys and other children's products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates were banned. However, WashPIRG found children's products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 7.2 percent. 

• Lead was severely restricted in toys earlier this year, but WashPIRG researchers found lead-laced toys on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the body. One preschool book contained lead paint far above the new limits. 

Toy-related injuries sent more than 82,000 children under the age of 5 to emergency rooms in 2008, and 19 children died, according to the commission.

A cocktail of toxic chemicals is still present in children's products and their immediate environment. Chemicals like bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical, are present in many baby bottles and sippy cups, WashPirg reports.

This is the 24th year that WashPIRG has produced the "Trouble in Toyland report.

For more information for boomer consumers, see my blog The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.

Posted by Rita R. Robison at November 28, 2009 1:03 a.m.

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