October 21, 2014

Tracking Trouble in Toyland

As parents shop for holiday toys, a new report urges them to watch out for possible hidden dangers. The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group is out with its 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report, which tests a random sampling of toys on store shelves each year.

WISPIRG’s Joe Rasmussen says changes in consumer protection laws have helped make the toy aisle safer to navigate, but the group did still find some unsafe products out there. Most of the dangers dealt with choking hazards, toxic chemicals, and unsafe noise levels.

Rasmussen says one of the most common hazards they continue to find is small parts in toys aimed at young children. He says shoppers should be sure to watch for any pieces that can fit inside of a toilet paper tube. Anything containing those parts should not be given to children under the age of three, and you should think carefully before giving it to a child under the age of six.

A few items tested positive for dangerous levels of toxic chemicals as well, such as lead and phthalates that are used to soften plastic.

While chemicals can be hard to spot on store shelves, Rasmussen says one thing shoppers can watch for is noise levels. Anything over 85 decibels can damage a child’s hearing and gift givers should consider looking for something quieter.

Shoppers can get some help checking out products while they are in the stores. WISPIRG has a mobile website that can be viewed on smart phones, which includes product information and warnings about particular toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also operates a database with similar information.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:07)