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When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
Date:12/10/2009

Common sense this holiday season can help you avoid gifts that might pose a risk to children

THURSDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Parents are crowding into stores this holiday season, searching for toys that will prompt smiles, cheers and hugs from their kids.

But parents also need to keep in mind that there are potentially dangerous toys on store shelves, so they must use judgment and common sense with every purchase.

"There are still some items that fall through the cracks," said Liz Hitchcock, a public health advocate for U.S. PIRG, who wrote this year's Trouble in Toyland report for the non-profit consumer protection group. "Consumers buying toys should be careful of what they buy."

There is encouraging news: New federal laws passed in the wake of the massive toy recalls of 2007 are kicking in, which means the toys out for this year should be among the safest ever, experts said.

"New federal safety rules are in place that should give consumers greater confidence when they go toy shopping this holiday season," said Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are now tough limits on lead and phthalates (endocrine disruptors commonly used in plastics) in toys, as well as new mandatory safety standards.

"This is the first holiday shopping season where you'll see these things implemented," she said.

Government and business reaction to the problems of 2007 also have improved toy safety, Fleming noted. There were 162 toy recalls in 2008; this year, by November there had only been 38 toy recalls, she said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes the drop in toy recalls to several factors, Fleming said: toy manufacturers placing a greater emphasis on quality, improved product enforcement at United States ports, better cooperation with countries that produce toys, and sharper consumers putting more thought into what they
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