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

pluck off store shelves for purchase.

Despite this new emphasis on toy safety, researchers at U.S. PIRG still found in their Trouble in Toyland report toys on shelves in September and October that pose potential hazards to children. These include:

  • Choking hazards, which prompted the most toy safety recalls in 2009, according to U.S. PIRG. By November, 5.3 million toys and children's products had been pulled from store shelves -- part of the 38 total toy recalls -- due to choking hazards.

    Still, the group said it was able to find toys for children under age 3 that contained small parts. "Kids under the age of 3 put everything in their mouth," Hitchcock said. Parents should use a cardboard toilet paper tube or a choke tube to test individual pieces of a toy and see if they will pose a choking hazard.

  • Toys containing toxins. Despite the new federal laws, U.S. PIRG found a number of children's products that contained high amounts of lead or phthalates.

    "We were disappointed to find lead in products on store shelves, because a lot of attention was paid to lead in toys," Hitchcock said. "Parents can't just trust that every product on a store shelf is safe and free from excessive amounts of lead."

    People who want to avoid the potential of lead in their children's toys should avoid buying certain types of toys, Hitchcock said. These include painted toys and inexpensive costume jewelry made out of metal.

  • Loud toys. A new safety concern involves toys that could damage children's hearing.

    ASTM (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) has created standards that limit the noise made by most children's toys to 85 decibels. But U.S. PIRG found a number of toys that surpassed that limit. "If it seems too loud for the parent, it's certainly going to be too loud for the child," Hitchcock said.

Another type of toy -- one that m
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