Consumers warned about risky toys in 34th annual Trouble in Toyland report issued by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, a consumer watchdog group is again warning about potentially dangerous toys, as well as ones that have been recalled but remain on store shelves.


During a press conference with Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Emma Horst-Martz, a campaign associate with the PennPIRG Education Fund, highlighted the warnings in the 34th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report issued by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).


"Toy safety has improved over the last three decades, but dangerous and toxic toys remain on stores’ toy shelves," Horst-Martz said.


USPIRG’s reports over the years have prompted more than 150 recalls of dangerous toys, she said, and spurred legislation to protect consumers.


Parents, Horst-Martz said, should be aware of risky toys and can do in-home testing to check for choking hazards and loud toys that might cause hearing damage.


To prevent choking hazards, special tubes can be purchased, Horst-Martz said. However, she said adults can simply use a toilet paper roll. If a toy can fit through the roll, it is too small for children age 3 and younger, and should be thrown away, she said.


Deflated balloons are also a major choking hazard for children age 8 and younger, she said.


Holding up a toy police car with ear-piercing sirens, Horst-Martz demonstrated how loud some toys can be, with many surpassing Consumer Protection Safety Commission standards.


"If it’s too loud, it can actually be harmful to a child’s developing hearing," she said.


She advised adults to get rid of loud toys or at the least put tape over the toy’s speaker to minimize the sound.


Strong magnets also pose a danger, Horst-Martz said, because children can swallow them and then the magnets connect in children’s stomachs.


The magnets can cause bowel obstructions and cut off the blood supply to organs, said Amy Bollinger, the manager of the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Program at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey,


"The number one thing we can do, and it is not rocket science, is to supervise your child," Bollinger said. "If you have a small child, you’ve got to have eyes on that child."


Horst-Martz also said toxins exist in toys, pointing out that USPIRG tests conducted on four types of slime found excessive levels of the chemical Boron in the gooey, sticky stuff.


And, recalled toys still remain on some store shelves, but are also prevalent on websites where toys are resold. USPIRG bought toys online that were recalled more than a year ago, Horst-Martz said.


Consumers, she said, can check toy recalls at SaferProducts.gov. The full report can be found at uspirg.org.


DePasquale said more must be done to warn consumers about recalled toys and to keep them out of the marketplace. "These stores and companies should do a better job of making sure these toys aren’t available in the first place," he said.


Bollinger said she did not want to be considered "the queen of doom and gloom," but families needed to be warned "because toy injuries are preventable."


She suggested that parents sort through their child’s toys and throw out small pieces that have broken off.


Bicycles and scooters are especially dangerous because children "don’t understand the dangers associated with toys that move," and try and go as fast as possible, Bollinger said.


She said the two main reasons children are brought to the emergency room at the Hershey hospital are brain injuries and broken bones, both of which are preventable if the proper safety measures are taken with the new toys.


"Please buy the helmet and the protective gear that goes along with it," Bollinger said.