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PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has helped identify dangerous toys for 35 years. But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year, and parents and caregivers are overwhelmed. They might do a quick search online for a toy to entertain their kids and trust that manufacturers and online vendors are guaranteeing their safety. This isn’t always the case, so parents need to be on guard,” said Grace Brombach, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Watchdog Associate.
Because of the pandemic, many parents are working from home while trying to keep kids of multiple ages busy with safe activities they can perform without supervision. This can be a daunting task. Our researchers found that many toys have hidden dangers or missing warning labels and playthings such as magnets, balloons and smaller toys can be deadly if they fall into younger children’s hands.
Here are some of the main categories from this year’s findings:
- Choking Hazards: From small parts included in toy sets, to game pieces, many toys are not safe for children 2 years old or younger. This year’s report uncovered multiple examples of choking hazards that either lack a proper warning online or don’t have the mandatory warning label on the packaging.
- Loud Noises: Incredibly noisy toys played on repeat aren’t just annoying. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sounds with decibel levels of more than 80 can cause potential hearing damage in children, and noises between 100 and 120 decibels can cause damage if they last more than one minute. Our researchers found a toy fire truck for sale on Amazon noisy enough to potentially damage a kid's hearing.
- High-Powered Magnets: Magnets of all types have posed risks to children for years. Some are part of toy building sets aimed at children as young as 3 years old, although some children that age don’t know not to eat or inhale them. And some magnets aren’t intended for kids; they’re more like fidget toys for adults, who can use “recreational” magnets to create shapes or figures.
- Recalled Toys: U.S. PIRG Education Fund researchers found three separate recalled toys for sale on eBay, and in two cases, found full pages selling the recalled products.
"It is extremely troubling that recalled products continue to be found for sale online -- which is unlawful," said Dev Gowda, assistant director of Kids In Danger. "KID found that recalling companies post less than half of their recalls on social media, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) isn’t much better. The CPSC must do a better job of publicizing recalls and should take appropriate action against those who are selling recalled products."
“Toy-related injuries are decreasing, which is great news. Still, more than 200,000 kids come into U.S. emergency departments each year with toy related injuries," said Dr. Kate Cronan of Nemours Children's Health System. "Most happen in children under 5 years of age and the holiday season can be especially dangerous. It’s important to stay vigilant, check the age recommendations, check for toy recalls, avoid magnets and separate toys meant for different ages if you have siblings at home.”
“The pandemic has led to more unsupervised play for children of all ages,” said Brombach. “Because of this, prevention is the best medicine! To protect your children, do your homework and make sure dangerous products don’t get into your house in the first place."
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