The list of potentially harmful toys is surprisingly long, warn consumer advocates ahead of the holidays


Magnets. Balloons. A doll with an arm that's removable by design for some reason.

All were included in the collection of potentially hazardous toys consumer advocates rattled off during a press conference at All Children's Hospital Tuesday morning.

The aim was to highlight the 30th edition of Trouble in Toyland, an annual report featuring a long list of toys that could be harmful to children because of chemicals used in their making, the ability to cause choking or even noise features that could damage young children's hearing.

The study, put together by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, found that "unsafe toys remain widely available," and that seemingly safe items that are legal to buy can contain phthalates that could be harmful to male reproductive development, small parts that are easy to break off and, to this day, lead.

“When you think about dangerous toys, you think about the old joke with the lawn darts that you would launch with those big pointy tips on them,” said Aaron Carmella, Field Representative at West Central Florida Federation of Labor. “That's not really what dangerous toys look like, as you can see. It's very, very subtle, what the dangers of these toys can be.”

The list includes the Slinky Jr., which contains chromium (which may cause anything from an allergic reaction if touched to cancer if it's swallowed or inhaled), magnets (which can be incredibly hazardous if a child swallows two or more), the Fun Bubbles Jump Rope (phthalates), a Disney Planes toy (choking) and the Nickelodeon Mermaid Dora (choking, also).

Speakers at the Tuesday event included medical professionals, consumer advocates and U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D—Tampa).

Dr. Joe Perno, an ER doctor at All Children’s Hospital, also stressed that parents be sure to buy adequate safety provisions if they plan on giving their children outdoor equipment like bicycles or scooters, especially helmets. 

“I like to tell people all the time I can fix a broken arm, but I can't fix a broken brain,” he said.

In the three decades that the survey has taken place, about 150 recalls have taken place as a result, notes the study. Since 2007, around 1,400 children's products in all have been recalled. In 2013, hazardous toys have resulted in more than 250,000 injuries and nine deaths.

Yet potentially hazardous toys are manufactured every year.

In 2008, the federal government tried to curb that via the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which allowed the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall products more quickly, ban certain substances and hold manufacturers accountable.

Castor said while catching harmful products that are manufactured or imported can be a little like a game of cat-and-mouse, those protections go a long way — and ought to be funded as such despite a hostile budget climate in Washington.

“We've got to make sure that they stay vigilant, and that parents know about these things, and that ER doctors like those at All Children's Hospital can can relay this really important information,” she said.

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