In 2017, there were an estimated 251,700 emergency room visits in the country resulting from toys, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Between 2015 and 2017, the USCPSC received reports of 37 toy related deaths in children 15 and under.
These number don’t account for the long term damages caused by toxins like lead, boron or cadmium, which researchers continue to find in children’s toys, according to New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, which released its annual Trouble in Toyland report at Hackensack University Medical Center on Friday.
NJPIRG has released the report, which seeks to give guidance to parents and gift buyers to protect children from toy-related dangers including toxins, choking hazards and privacy problems, for 34 years. This year’s report focuses on easily identifiable toy dangers, like choking hazards and loud noises; hidden dangers, like toxins and cybersecurity issues; and recalled toys.
“Toy safety has improved over the last three decades. That’s largely due to hardworking officials and the USPSC, but obviously these are still happening. Slime has become a popular toy for kids, and for the second year in a row, our research found boron exceeding European Union safety standards,” said NJPIRG Consumer Watchdog Associate Dylan Robb. “Some of the slimes are sold as a powder mixed with water, and one of these powders contained 75 times the E.U. standard for borax, and there was no clear warning label not to ingest. The U.S. doesn’t have warnings for borax in children’s products, but were calling on legislators to require labeling and create health-based standards for children’s products.”
Past Trouble in Toyland reports have resulted in more than 150 recalls, and have driven legislation including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which established safety requirements for children’s products and reauthorized and modernized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“[W]ere calling on legislators to require labeling and create health-based standards for children’s products.”
– NJPIRG Consumer Watchdog Associate Dylan Robb
A previous report revealed lead 300 times the allowable limit in fidget spinners sold at Target and other stores. The product was recalled.
According to the report, however, recalled products are still making their ways into consumers’ hands.
“The way we should approach this problem is making our recall system more effective, first by ensuring that all models of the recalled product are taken off of store shelves. Retailers have a ton of info about what folks purchase and they should be able to use that info to contact consumers about recalled products,” Robb said. “Also, secondhand retail sites like eBay have a wide variety of technical abilities, and it should generally be on them to make sure recalled toys aren’t on their sites.”
Until a system is created that doesn’t allow dangerous toys to get into children’s hands, Robb said, parents can go to saferproducts.gov to find out if a toy has been recalled.
Robb was joined at Hackensack University Medical Center by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, pediatric intensive care unit section chief Dr. Mark Siegel, and Jenn Smallwood, NJPIRG students campus organizer.
According to The Toy Association, national toy safety requirements include more than 100 standards and tests to ensure that toys are safe.
“There are strict limits for lead and other chemicals in toys, internationally-emulated limits on sound level output, a highly effective small parts regulation that was developed with the help of pediatricians, and strict standards prohibiting the use of magnets in any toy part that is small enough to be swallowed,” the Toy Association statement said, citing PlaySafe.org for information on toy safety and recalls.
Editor’s note: This piece was edited to include comments from the Toy Association.