Trouble in Toyland: 32nd Annual Report on Hazardous Toys

Toys that pose dangers to children are still being found on Vermont’s shelves and online stores accessible to the Vermont public, according to VPIRG’s 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report.

When shopping this holiday season, consumers should be aware of the potential hazards posed by the toys identified in this report.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for children’s presents,” Adam Maxwell, VPIRG Field Director told reporters Tuesday at an event rolling out the report.

This year, VPIRG advocates have also highlighted several toys that have been identified as containing hazardous chemicals. These toys include several pillow and blanket plush products, like the “Pink Kitty” and “Blue Puppy Pillow and Blanket,” a Marvel Comics “Spider-Man and Venom” clip, and a Winnie the Pooh baby blanket. Alongside these children’s products, VPIRG continues to remind parents and caregivers of a product that we have highlighted in the past, the popular “Elf on the Shelf” which contains a possible human carcinogen. These toys were identified by using data reported to the State of Vermont under the Toxic Free Families Act.

VPIRG is calling for swift passage of important toxics legislation (S.103) this January, which would empower the Vermont Commissioner of Health to act to protect children from the toxic chemicals in toys and other products.

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.

The Trouble in Toyland report also lists toys that have been recalled over the past year. The recall process for toys differs from that of other consumer items like vehicles. When those larger items get recalled, owners will usually be contacted immediately through VIN numbers. However, that’s not the case with toys.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Lead: We found two fidget spinners from Target which had dangerously high levels of lead, well over the federal legal limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products. We tested for lead at a lab which is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass which we purchased at Target and is distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C.: the center circle tested for 33,000 ppm of lead, which is more than 300 times the legal limit for lead in children’s products.
    • On November 10th, Target announced that it will be removing the two fidget spinner models from its store shelves. Target had initially balked at requests to do so, citing a Consumer Product Safety Commission rule stating that general use products directed at adults don’t need to follow the same lead guidelines as children’s products directed at children 12 and under. These products were labeled for children 14 and older.  Regardless of age labeling, it is widely known that fidget spinners are a favorite of children of all ages.  We applaud Target for removing this product off of their shelves and their website. This is a great first step at ensuring that new consumers don’t come into contact with this hazard.
  • Small Parts: Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found several toys that contain small parts, but do not have any warning label at all. These included a peg game, golf, and football travel games that we found at Dollar Tree.
  • Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. We found five balloon sets on store shelves from Dollar Tree (H2O Blasters – Water Balloons and Disney Princess Punchball Balloons), Party City (Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs and Mega Value Pack 14 Latex Punch Balloons), and Dollar City Plus (Party Balloons – 10) that are either marketed to children under eight or have misleading warning labels that make it appear that they are safe for children between ages three and eight.
  • Data-Collecting Toys: As toymakers produce more and more products that are part of the “Internet of Things,” data collection and the sharing of consumer information become greater concerns. For example, we list a doll, “My Friend Cayla,” which we found at Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, which has been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission because it may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. In July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning to consumers to “consider cybersecurity prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes.”

Read our full report below 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.

“There is no good reason that a toy purchased for a child this holiday season should pose a threat to that child’s health,” said Maxwell. “We can and must do better for our kids. If manufacturers will not voluntarily make their products safer, then we urge the federal government and Vermont’s Department of Health and legislative leaders to take action.”

VPIRG urges parents and caregivers to take the following steps to protect children from potential hazards:

  • 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.

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

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

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