Product Liability

Parents warned about dangerous toys this holiday season

With the 2010 holiday gift buying season in full swing, consumer groups are reminding parents to select gifts for their young children carefully as hazardous and potentially deadly toys continue to show up on the store shelves, posing risks of choking and strangulation, and toxic chemical and metal poisoning.

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), more than 83,000 industrial chemicals are used regularly in manufacturing consumer goods, most of which little is known. Nearly half of these chemicals have never even been studied for their effects on human health.

“As their minds and bodies grow and develop, children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals that could affect proper development. Because children have a natural tendency to touch and mouth objects as a way of exploring the world around them, harmful chemicals can leach out of these products, enter their bodies and cause health problems. Chemicals have become such a close part of our lives that scientists can find more than 100 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the bodies of every mother and child.”

One of the biggest problems with toys imported from China and other developing nations is the use of paint containing toxic levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin. Exposure to lead can adversely affect nearly every organ and system in the human body, especially the central nervous system. Lead and other toxic metals such as cadmium also turn up frequently in children’s jewelry, metal toys, and other trinkets manufactured in overseas.

Phthalates are chemicals added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals are also easily leeched from toys, cups, bottles, and other plastic products into the human body, with a range of adverse health effects. In fact, the CDC found phthalates in the bodies of nearly every American it tested, with especially high concentrations in younger children.

Although phthalates are being phased out of production in the United States, Canada, and the European Union over health concerns, they are still used liberally by manufacturers in developing nations.

Choking and strangulation hazards on toys and other children’s products are the reason behind most of the children’s product recalls in the U.S. Despite specific regulations governing the safety of children’s products, serious choking and strangulation hazards continue to show up in abundance on store shelves and clothing racks nationwide. Nearly 6 million toys were recalled in the U.S. and Canada last year alone because of choking risk, and nearly half a million articles of clothing were pulled from stores because of the dangerous drawstrings and other strangulation hazards.

To view current lists of children’s toy and other products consumer groups consider dangerous, visit http://toysafety.org/worstToyList_index.shtml and http://www.uspirg.org/toysafety-2010