‘Trouble in Toyland’ report helps parents gauge toy-related risks

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Black Friday unofficially marks the start of the holiday shopping season, and public health and safety officials are warning parents about some toys that could be deadly to children.

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report provides parents and gift buyers with a guide to protecting children from recalled toys, choking hazards, noisy toys, data security problems, and other toy-related dangers.

The CPSC estimates that emergency rooms treated 198,000 toy-related injuries in 2020. This is a notable decrease from toy-related injuries reported from 2013 to 2019 when injury reports ranged from 224,200 to 251,700 per year. 

So far in 2021, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled 13 toys. 

Here are the main categories in this year’s report:

  • Knockoff toys on the market: Knockoffs used to be found on a street vendor’s table. Nowadays, knockoffs and counterfeit toys can be bought online, often from overseas, where manufacturers don’t always follow U.S. regulations. Researchers identified knockoff toys on the marketplace and the safety concerns they can pose to children. Read the tips guide to learn how to avoid counterfeit toys.
  • Second-hand toys: People often sell their used goods online without checking to see whether they have been recalled. That can be a big problem when it comes to toys. Previously recalled toys were found for sale on eBay. 
  • Choking hazards: Researchers found discrepancies between website descriptions and warning labels for toys with small parts. Toys advertised for “age 2” had small parts that are unsafe for children younger than 3. 
  • Noisy toys: Noisy toys are not only a nuisance in the home, but also a risk to children’s hearing. Toy researchers identified five noisy toys and tested the noise levels while replicating how a child would use the toy. 
  • Smart toys: The report identified privacy issues concerning smart toys looking at three categories: cameras and recording devices built into toys, unsecure mobile apps used to control toys and personalized online accounts that store data specifically about the toy and the toy user. 

Kari Soderstrom knows what it’s like to have a young child who likes to explore. She has three kids, ages 4, 6, and 7, so she does what she can to prevent her youngest from getting ahold of a potential hazard.

“You don’t want to get something with tiny parts… because you can’t be watching three kids all of the time.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke about the risks associated with certain toys in a press conference Friday.

“The damage to eardrums from a toy that is loud can be lasting and severe,” Blumenthal said.

Dr. Steven Rogers with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center said scooters are causing the most injuries for kids younger than 15 and small toy parts continue to get into the mouths of little ones.

Health and safety experts also say these days you’re less likely to find unsafe toys in retail stores. It’s a bigger concern when you’re shopping online.

On the web, you’re more likely to come across counterfeits containing toxic chemicals or recalled toys.

“Just because they’re recalled doesn’t mean some private seller isn’t going to try to sell them online,” Rogers said.

But in person, you’re able to touch, feel and see what you’re buying and ensure the product is age-appropriate.

“We’ve dealt with our manufacturers for years and years. Everything meets American safety standards so the chances of there being any problems are much lower,” said Diane Gervais of Amato’s Toy and Hobby in Middletown.

Overall, Rogers said the best gift you can give your kids is time spent together.

“Play with your kids and spend time with them because that’s what they’re going to remember when the toys are all gone.”

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