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Cross These Dangerous Toys Off Kids' Christmas List, Experts Say

TUESDAY, Nov. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Toxic or dangerous toys can still be found on store shelves despite tough new federal regulations, according to a report released Tuesday.

Researchers found toys for sale that contained toxic levels of lead, cadmium, antimony and phthalates, said this year's "Trouble in Toyland" report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

One vinyl toy, the Marvel Super Hero Squad Soft Shield, contained 29 times the legal limit of lead.

"That toy is recommended for ages 2 and up," said Andrew Fish, a program associate with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. "It really shouldn't be recommended for anyone at that level."

A Lamaze-brand infant play mat contained high levels of antimony, a toxic metal that has been classified as a cancer-causing agent. A Ninja Turtles Pencil Case contained high levels of phthalates and cadmium. Phthalates are chemicals suspected to cause developmental health effects. Cadmium is a toxic metal that can cause learning disabilities and kidney problems.

U.S. PIRG researchers also found the following:

  • Toys that still pose a choking hazard, despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under 3 years old

  • Toys that are potentially harmful to children's hearing

  • Toys containing small powerful magnets that can be dangerous if swallowed

Magnets are a particular concern. If a child swallows more than one, the magnets can stick together inside their bodies and cause internal damage.

"Magnet toys are much stronger than they have been in the past, and therefore pose a greater health risk, especially to young children because they routinely put toys in their mouths," Fish said.

A 2-year-old child suffered intestinal tears in January after swallowing 62 rare earth magnets, the report found. Between 2009 and 2011 there were 1,700 emergency room visits following the ingestion of magnets. More than 70 percent of those cases involved children between ages 4 and 12.

The U.S. PIRG report also raised concerns regarding excessively loud toys that could harm a child's hearing.

The group tested toys based on standards that consider anything above 85 decibels dangerous to human ears, and sounds above 65 decibels dangerous for toys meant to be held close to the ear. Prolonged exposure can lead to gradual hearing loss.

"One in five children will have some form of hearing loss by the time they reach age 12," Fish said.

Researchers found three toys on store shelves that exceed these loudness limits. These were the LeapFrog Chat & Count Smart Phone, the LeapFrog Lil'Phone Pal and the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Remote.

Toys that pose a choking hazard also continued to crop up on store shelves, the report said. U.S. PIRG researchers found a number of toys containing parts that would fit through the "choke tube" that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides to parents to assess choking hazards.

Fish said parents should be on their guard regardless of where they purchase toys. "We found hazardous toys from dollar stores and from nationwide chains. The problems are really across the board," he noted.

"Parents should remember that our report only includes examples of potentially hazardous toys, and is not intended to be a comprehensive list," Fish said. "They should always examine toys carefully for potential hazards before purchasing, and they should always read labels, warnings and age recommendations."

Consumer groups also called on the CPSC to continue vigorous enforcement of safety laws governing children's toys.

"Parents and all consumers should have more confidence in the products they may own or consider purchasing but should also continue to do the right research to select the safest and most appropriate gifts for the children on their gift lists," Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel at Consumer Federation of America, said in a U.S. PIRG statement.

"Manufacturers should ensure they comply with the law," Weintraub said. "Continued CPSC enforcement and adequate funding is necessary to further protect our nation's children."

More information

Visit the U.S. Public Interest Research Group to view the complete Trouble in Toyland 2013 report.

SOURCES: Andrew Fish, program associate, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group; U.S. Public Interest Research Group, statement, Nov. 26, 2013; U.S. PIRG report, Trouble in Toyland 2013: The 28th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

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