Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Toyland still may not be such a safe place for kids - or parents.
That's according to "Trouble in Toyland," the 28th annual survey of toy safety from the U.S. Public Research Group (U.S. PIRG), a consumer group that pushes for toy safety.
The consumer group says parents embarking on holiday shopping are once again confronted with a series of potential toy hazards - particularly affecting kids age 2 and younger - from choking to chemical poisoning to noise hazards.
Among the worst offenders: The Captain America Soft Shield, for ages 2 and older, contains 29 times more lead than allowed by law.
"You can still find hazardous toys made by big brands and sold by big retailers," says Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the group.
Among toys highlighted in the report are some made by toy giants Hasbro and Mattel. The toys were purchased by the group from major retailers including Walmart, Kmart, Toys R Us and Babies R Us.
The report lists the Fisher-Price Loving Family Outdoor Barbeque as a danger because of plastic food items so small and realistic that toddlers could choke on them.
Toys should entertain and educate children, "but poorly designed and constructed toys can cause injury and even death," the report warns. There is no comprehensive list of potentially hazardous toys, the group says, but it advises consumers to "examine toys carefully for potential dangers before you make a purchase."
Among the report's top concerns:
Choking hazards. Five different Littlest Pet Shop toys made by Hasbro were cited in the report as potential choking hazards because of parts that can detach from the toy. There are no small-part warnings on the toys. The toys were purchased by U.S. PIRG at Walmart and Kmart. Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy responded in a statement: "The entire Littlest Pet Shop line is age graded for children 4 years and older. The Littlest Pet Shop figures do not pose a choking hazard as regulations for small parts apply to products for under 3 years of age."
Toxic hazards. Among the products with toxic hazards is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil case, made by Innovative Design and sold at Toys R Us. The pencil case contains cadmium (a lead substitute that's a toxic metal) and phthalates (which can cause reproductive defects). Both pose chronic health hazards to children when handled or put to the mouth, the group says. Innovative Design did not respond to a call late Tuesday.
Magnetic hazards. The Sonic Sound Sizzlers Noise Magnets, made by JA-RU Inc., was tagged by the group. The problem, the group says, is that it contains two high-powered magnets that can cause abdominal problems if swallowed, particularly if the magnets bind together in the stomach. JA-RU did not respond late Tuesday.
Noise hazards. Toy giant Mattel's Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Remote was named by the group as a potential noise hazard. The toy, sold at Babies R Us, tested at 85-plus decibels. Toys used near the ear are supposed to be below 65 decibels. The group was concerned because inappropriate use can lead to hearing loss. Mattel referred all comments to the Toy Industry Association.
The toy industry's top trade group lambasted the report. "While the report alleges some products are not safe, any toy sold in the U.S. must comply with U.S. safety standards," said Joan Lawrence, vice president for safety standards at the Toy Industry Association. She said U.S. PIRG "misrepresented" toy standards and tested the toys at labs not accredited by the federal government.