VIDEO REPORT: Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

UPDATED Tuesday, November 20, 2012---5:15 p.m.

MADISON--Black Friday: it's the time to hit stores in search of the best holiday deals. But just because a toy sounds like fun, doesn't mean that it's safe for the little ones on your shopping list this season."The new regulations dictate that 85 decibels is the max of what one of these toys should actually be projecting," said Trever Hutcheson, a consumer advocate with the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group.

That number won't mean a lot to most people--but it's not obvious when toys are over the limit. To us the toy Hutcheson used as an example didn't seem unusually loud--but experts say it's over the max.

Also making the list of things to look out for: choking hazards.
"We all know toddlers put everything in their mouths," said Hutcheson. And from 2005 to 2010 there's been 50 deaths related for children, deaths related to actually choking on balloons, small parts, parts of toys."

So how do you know if you're buying a toy a child could choke on? Hutcheson says an easy test is to take an empty toilet paper tube with you when you shop. He says if a toy fits into the tube, it's something a young child could choke on.

Also on the danger list: toys made with toxic materials--like lead.

So as a shopper--how will you know what's safe and what's not? Hutcheson says there's a website you can access--it's called It has lists of recalled toys--and tips and hazards to look out for. And if you've got a smartphone, you can check it out while you're at the store.

Beyond doing your research, Hutcheson says just use your best judgement: "Make sure you're reading the labels and you know, ask the general questions you'd ask as a parent," he said. "Does this look chokeable, do I trust leaving this like on the ground, is it shiny, does it look like food?"

Useful Websites:

Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 --- 2:23 p.m.

Press Release from WISPIRG:

Note: A link to the report can be found below this story text.

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves
Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe

MADISON, Nov. 20 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning WISPIRG, joined by Nicole Vesely from Safe Kids Madison, released the report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and toy magnets that can cause serious injury.

The Trouble in Toyland report also includes a list of dangerous toys that surveyors found on toy store shelves. The list includes a dangerous magnet toy, a bowling game that is a choking hazard and a cell phone rattle that is harmful to little ears.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Joe Rasmussen, Program Associate for WISPIRG.

Dr. Bryan Rudolph, Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellow at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York said, “The Trouble in Toyland report appropriately alerts parents and consumers to the dangers of high-powered magnets, such as those sold in sets of 100 or more, and the life-threatening gastrointestinal injuries they can cause when swallowed.” He continued, “The rising number of magnet injuries in children and teenagers suggests that the sale of high-powered magnets should be prohibited. In the meantime, the best defense against high-powered magnet ingestion and a trip to the emergency department is to make sure they are not present where children, live, visit or play.”

For 27 years, the WISPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. The group also provides an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smartphones at

Key findings from the report include:

-Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We found toys which contained phthalates, as well as toys with lead content above the 100 parts per million limit.

-Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards.

-We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

-We discovered small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, no government agency tests all toys before they hit store shelves. Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Rasmussen concluded. “The message of today is clear. Parents have to stay vigilant. We cannot and must not accept any weakening of our consumer and public health safeguards because they protect young children, America's littlest consumers."

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