31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

Advocates Identify Toys Containing Dangerous Chemicals Available in Vermont

Some toys that have been recalled for lead or powerful magnets or other hazards can still be found in online stores, according to VPIRG’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that consumers should be wary when shopping this holiday season.

Advocates also identified a number of holiday themed toys being sold in Vermont that contain known dangerous chemicals. These toys included the popular “Elf on the Shelf” and “Frozen” themed Christmas stockings. These products were identified using initial data reported to the State of Vermont under the new Toxic Free Families Act. Under the Act all companies manufacturing children’s products that contain any of sixty six chemicals of high concern to children are required to report to the State by January 1st 2017.

The Trouble in Toyland report lists toys recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from January 2015 to October 2016 with the message to consumers that these recalled toys may still be in homes. For large items such as cars, when they get recalled, owners will usually be contacted immediately through VIN numbers. However, that’s not the case with toy recalls.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, consumers should understand two things: First, not all recalls may be well-publicized, and some toys that are recalled may still be available online. Second, many products marketed to children contain known dangerous chemicals, so it is important to educate yourself about how to avoid these products.” said Falko Schilling, VPIRG Consumer and Environmental Advocate.

For over 30 years, the VPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children. Over the years, our reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions.     Some of the recalled toys that our researchers found were still available for sale at online stores include:

  • A toy glockenspiel which was recalled in February 2016 due to high levels of lead in the paint. If the paint is scraped off and ingested lead can cause adverse health effects.
  • A remote-controlled flying toy which was recalled in June 2016. The toy’s USB charging cord can overheat, posing a hazard.
  • A pencil case which contains two magnets that hold the case lid closed can detach, posing an ingestion hazard. If these two magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside a child’s intestines and result in serious internal injuries.

Vermont’s new information being reported under the Toxic Free Families Act is being collected by the Department of Health. All presorting is required to be completed by January 1st 2017, but initial data can be found below. Two of the products reported included the “Elf on the Shelf” produced by CCA and B LLC, and a line of character themed stockings produced by PTI Group.

CCA and B LLC reported on August 4th that the Elf on the Shelf doll contained a possible carcinogen in the doll’s fabric. The manufacturer did not identify the actual chemical of high concern to children citing confidential business information. CCA and B LLC also reported that a known human carcinogen was contained in the “Scout Elves at Play” playset, and that possible human carcinogens were contained in their “Plushee Pal”, “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition” and “Elf Pets: A St. Bernard Tradition”.

The PTI Group reported that their line of holiday character stand up stockings contained 10 chemicals of high concern to children including multiple known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. The line of stockings include characters from Frozen, Despicable Me minions, Minnie Mouse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Hello Kitty, Spiderman and Sponge Bob Square Pants. 

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“For far too long, it’s been hard for people to find out if products they’re buying for their children contain harmful chemicals. Thanks to the work of the Vermont Legislature and Department of Health, Vermont created a first-in-the-nation program that will allow Vermonters to find out if the toys, bottles and other children’s products on Vermont store shelves contain chemicals linked to health problems like cancer, infertility, and asthma. As a parent, I’m excited to finally be able to make better informed decisions about what I’m bringing home to my children,” said Lauren Hierl, political director for Vermont Conservation Voters.

Read our full report which includes a full list of recalled toys, those that we found available for sale online, as well as specific information including manufacturers’ names, pictures, and remedies for what consumers should do if they have the recalled toys in their homes.

It is illegal to sell a recalled product under CPSC rules. We have notified the CPSC about these potentially illegal sales and have asked them to investigate these toys further and take appropriate action.

The CPSC should improve recall effectiveness by:

  • Engaging in efforts to increase consumer and researcher awareness of the public hazard database SaferProducts.gov.
  • Aggressively seeking to increase recall effectiveness by making sellers agree to conduct more effective outreach campaigns that stress the real hazard posed, rather than simply promoting the purported good will of the firm.
  • Performing regular online sweeps checking for the availability of previously-recalled toys.
  • Holding companies reselling recalled products accountable, which will also send a message to others.

Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

  • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov.
  • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org.
  • Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf. Check the CPSC recall database at CPSC.gov before buying toys online.
  • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at Saferproducts.gov.
  • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples of previously recalled toys only. Other hazards may exist.
  • Review the recalled toys list in this report and compare it to toys in your children’s toy boxes.
  • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.

Over the past eight years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.

To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, click here.

To get involved in our Campaign for a Toxic Free Vermont, click here.

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