In February 2009, toys with a phthalate content that exceeds 0.1 percent will be banned. Currently, the phthalate content of some toys is 40 percent, Hitchcock said.
Lead is another worrisome toxin found in some toys. Exposure to lead can result in lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development, and even death. According to PIRG, a 4-year-old boy died of lead poisoning in 2006, after swallowing a bracelet charm that was 99 percent lead by weight.
PIRG said it also found a piece of children's jewelry that was 45 percent lead by weight -- more than 750 times the current U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission action levels. The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will eventually allow lead only as a trace element, PIRG said.
To avoid toys containing lead and phthalates, Hitchcock urged parents to steer clear of cheap toys from abroad -- particularly those made in China, which produces about 80 percent of all toys sold in the United States.
"In this year's report, the examples that we have were all made in China," Hitchcock said.
The Toy Industry Association (TIA) said, "Toy safety is the number one priority for the toy industry, and the industry has been working year-round to regain consumer confidence.
"The same old advice for parents and consumers applies to ensure safe play -- shop for brands you know at retailers you trust; and especially when there are young children in the home -- read and follow age labeling on toys; demonstrate safe play for your child, and supervise play," the association said in an e-mail.
Dr. Karen Sheehan, medical director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, and medical director
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