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Seattle PI
Rita R. Robison

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America's store shelves, the Washington Public Interest Research Group announced today in its 25th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report.

WashPIRG's report offers information on the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards. The consumer advocacy group is calling on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to better protect children from choking dangers. 

"Choking on small parts is a leading cause of toy-related injury, causing 15 deaths in the last three years," said Steve Breaux, spokesman for WashPIRG. "We are concerned that the 30-year-old small parts standard is not protective enough. Children can and have choked on parts that are larger than the standard."

Small parts from one toy, the Lokmock /Baby's First Train, manufactured by Haba and sold online by Amazon, can present a choking hazard, according to WashPIRG. A Washington, D.C., parent had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her 1 year old to keep him from choking on one of the toys smaller parts, even though the train doesn't fail the small parts test and is in compliance with current safety regulations.

Breaux says that other toys available in many toy stores and chain retailers in the Seattle area pose other hazards, including toxic chemicals:

  • Plastic toy handcuffs available in the dollar section of a local Toys-R-Us contain antimony, a known cancer-causing agent, on the surface coating at 1,200 parts per million – 20 times the legal limit of 60 ppm.
  • The "Bright Stars Travel Book," an infant's toy available at Toys-R-Us, contains antimony at twice the legal limit.
  • A Dora the Explorer backpack manufactured by Global Design Concepts and available at a Clare's store in downtown Seattle contains a chemical used to make plastic softer but which has been connected to adverse reproductive and developmental health effects.
  • The crown in the Princess Expressions Tiara and Jewelry set manufactured by Almar Sales and available in local K-Mart stores contains 87 ppm lead. Lead has been banned in paint since 1977, and in gasoline for nearly as long, because it's a powerful neurotoxin that causes chronic problems including lower IQ and behavioral problems.

Although WashPIRG found problems in toyland, it said that progress has been made on toy safety in the past two years due to a 2008 law overhauling the commission and new leadership at the agency. 

However, the commission's extended authority doesn't go far enough when it comes to toxic chemicals, said Breaux. "We urge Congress and the Obama Administration to reform chemicals policy to address the tens of thousands of chemicals that are in the products that children come in contact with every day."

Key findings from the WashPIRG report include:

  • In 2009, many 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 30 percent.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under age 3, toys are still available that pose serious choking hazards.
  • Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years, but WashPIRG researchers found toys containing toxic lead and antimony on store shelves. Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body, and antimony is classified as a human carcinogen.

Toy-related injuries sent more than 250,000 children – about 90,000 under the age of five – to emergency rooms in 2009, according to the commission. Twelve children died from toy-related injuries that year.

WashPIRG provides a website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smart-phones at

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