HACKENSACK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today joined the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) to release the 34th annual Trouble in Toyland report warning parents and consumers about potential dangers associated with toys on sale this holiday season. This year’s report identified three categories of toys still available for sale that parents should be on the lookout for: detectable dangers, hidden toxics and hazards, and recalled toys.
“We all want our kids and grandkids to have a joyous and festive holiday season—not end up in an emergency room,” said Sen. Menendez. “That’s why it’s important for consumers, especially parents, to be aware of the dangers lurking on toy shelves, and to make sure to only buy products that are both safe and age-appropriate for the children in their lives. As the holiday shopping season gets underway, I want to thank PIRG for continuing to keep the safety of our children on top of everyone’s mind by issuing its 34th annual ‘Trouble in Toyland’ report. It’s important to arm consumers with the information they need to keep them and their families safe.
Hundreds of thousands of children go to the emergency room every year because of toy-related injuries. While stronger safety standards have significantly reduced the number of dangerous toys for sale, problems persist.
“Toys have become safer over the last three decades, but dangerous and toxic toys are still on store shelves. With that in mind, parents need to be vigilant to keep their kids healthy and safe,” said Dylan Robb, NJPIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Watchdog Associate. “Manufacturers and regulators must do more to ensure all toys are safe before they end up in a child’s hands.”
Sen. Menendez and NJPIRG released the Trouble in Toyland report at Hackensack University Medical Center’s Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. They were joined by Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert C. Garrett; Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Section Chief Mark E. Siegel, M.D.; and Kristin and Pietro V., whose three-year-old son, Marco, required surgery after swallowing magnets similar to those contained in products listed in the report.
“It is imperative that we all work together to avoid gifts that can potentially injure a child,’’ said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We applaud the efforts of US PIRG and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez to help consumers make the right choices so all families can have a safe and enjoyable Holiday season.’’
“According to the most recent data, more than 250,000 emergency room visits, across the country, are the result of toys. Hackensack University Medical Center appreciates the opportunity to help educate parents and caretakers on some of the injuries and hazards we see, in an effort to prevent more children from being harmed,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., chair of Pediatrics, physician in chief, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center.
The Trouble in Toyland report notes that toy-related injuries and hazards are avoidable through vigilance and improving the toy safety system. It identifies these potential threats and empowers parents to take key actions to ensure toys are safe:
Detectable dangers: Parents can recognize numerous dangerous products just by looking at them. A few common threats include:
? Choking hazards: Ubbi Connecting bath toys and hundreds of thousands of wooden vehicles sold by Target were recalled for choking risks. You can test if a toy is a choking hazard, using a toilet paper roll.
? Balloons: Uninflated balloons are the primary cause of suffocation death in children. Uninflated balloons should be kept away from kids under eight and popped balloons should not be left around.
? Loud noises: If an action figure, toy gun or other toy produces loud sounds, it can hurt a child’s hearing. If you hold the toy near your ear and it’s too loud for you, it’s too loud for your child. You can remove the batteries, put tape over the speaker, or decrease the volume.
? Magnets: Sculpture kits or puzzles may include powerful magnets that can seriously injure children if ingested. Two doctors in Portland, Ore. removed 54 of these small magnets from four children in just over a month. Keep these away from children or out of the home altogether.
? Toys marketed to adults: For example, fidget spinners may not meet the same safety standards as other toys because they are primarily designed with adults in mind, though they can still be marketed directly or indirectly to children, with designs like Captain America’s shield or a Transformer.
Hidden toxics: In the last year, toys and other children’s products containing lead, cadmium and boron were found for sale -- posing a health risk parents cannot see.
? Lead: Two kids’ musical instruments had illegal levels of lead, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation this summer. Parents should avoid purchasing toys manufactured before 2008 and be careful of imported, cheaper toys. Manufacturers should enhance testing to keep lead out of toys.
? Boron: U.S. PIRG Education Fund testing revealed levels of borax (a compound that includes boron) exceeding European Union safety standards in all four play slimes tested. Moderate to high doses of boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other long-term damages. TheDIY 3-Pack of Rainbow Cosmic Slime Shakers contained 75 times the EU standard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission should establish safety standards for this toxic, including warning labels.
? Cadmium: The Washington state Attorney General found cadmium above the legal limit of 40 parts per million in children’s jewelry. Cadmium can cause cancer and other health problems. Parents should avoid purchasing cheaper, metallic jewelry.
Recalled Toys: The last line of defense is our nation’s recall system. But, U.S. PIRG Education Fund researchers were able to purchase the recalled INNOCHEER’s Kids Musical Instrument Set and VTech’s Musical Elephant Shaker, which were both recalled more than a year ago. Parents should check to see if a toy has been recalled by visiting recalls.govSen. Menendez has a long and distinguished record fighting for consumer protections and public safety.
Yesterday, the senator led a letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urging it to issue new, stricter controls on toy, imitation, air and BB guns to ensure these products are distinct and not confused with real, lethal firearms that could lead to deadly consequences.
Sen. Menendez challenged whether Amazon’s “Amazon Choice” badge, believed to denote products with high customer satisfaction ratings, may be misleading customers into thinking the products receiving this distinction are the best available products when, in fact, some are of inferior quality. He also urged Amazon to pull dangerous and deadly products from its platform following reports that more than 4,000 products for sale on Amazon were declared unsafe.
In July, the senator pressed federal regulators to do more to protect people from flying, wind-swept beach umbrellas after one impaled a woman in the leg in Seaside Heights in 2018 and a killed a Virginia woman in 2016. He has also called upon the CPSC to address continued dangers infant walkers pose to children.
Sen. Menendez introduced the Consumer Data Protection Act and Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act to strengthen protections for consumers’ personal data and enforce notice of breach security standards. He also sponsored legislation to crack down on robocalls, and protect consumers from deceptive websites and being defrauded by foreign counterfeiters.
April 22, 2021