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Report finds there's still 'Trouble in Toyland'

Safety is gradually improving, but toy-shoppers should still be watchful this holiday season.

That’s the main message from this year’s annual ‘Trouble in Toyland’ toy safety report from the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM).

The group says the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed in 2008, has improved toy safety.

But it warns that some toys can and do fall through the regulatory cracks. The group found toys that exceed federal standards for lead, cadmium, phthalates, and other toxins that can impair child development.

And PIRGIM suggests some of those laws could be tightened up, too.

Spokesman Eric Mosher points to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil case. It contains much more of the toxic element cadmium—about 600 parts per million--than federal law allows.

But Mosher says those laws only apply to surface coating, so “Despite its potential hazards, it’s completely within the confines of the law.”

“We’re not targeting brands or stores or companies,” Mosher adds. “We’re really looking at product by product…which products are in violation of the standards that have been set down, or which products are dangerous enough that they should suggest the adoption of new standards.”

But new standards also face opposition. Republican State Senator Roger Kahn has fought for stricter state oversight when it comes to toxic chemicals, including the creation of a Toy Safety Council that would thoroughly scrutinize more consumer products and report on their contents.

Kahn says legislation he introduced in 2011 has gone nowhere. “There’s significant opposition, as you can imagine, from the chemical industry to making changes,” he says. “And that’s really too bad. I think it’s short-sighted on their part.”

Besides toxic chemicals, the report warns shoppers to look carefully for possible choking hazards (the groups suggests a “toilet paper tube test” to determine whether parts are too small for young children); magnetic parts that can cause serious injury if swallowed; and excessively noisy toys that can damage children’s hearing.

More detailed information can be found at toysafetytips.org.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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