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Mainers 'Better Watch Out' for Dangerous Toys

December 10, 2010

AUGUSTA, Maine - 'Tis the season for making kids' toy wishes come true, but local legal experts say when Mainers go shopping this weekend, they should also be thinking about safety. A new report says 95 percent of the toys sold in the U.S. now come from abroad, and some of them would not receive a "thumbs-up" for safety from Santa.

Daniel Kagan, the immediate past president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association, has a couple of tips for toy shoppers.

"I'm a big proponent of 'made in the United States,' realizing of course that's not always possible. Be aware there are outward markers - for example, items that could break off or be swallowed."

According to a new American Association for Justice report, toy-related injuries have increased 54 percent over the last decade.

Kim Winter, president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, warns shoppers to scrutinize foreign-made products like toy jewelry, which can contain lead, lead paint or chemicals that can cause cancer.

"The Chinese manufacturers, once they were taken to task on the lead issue, replaced it with cadmium - and cadmium is number seven on the Top 10 list of cancer-causing materials."

Winter points out that defective toys can be offered for sale for years. A Public Citizen analysis found that companies waited more than two years on average to inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission about defects, and then the agency took more than 200 days to inform the public.

"The federal government is so overwhelmed and understaffed; it's the lawyers organizations that are helping out by forcing these manufacturers to deal with safety issues."

The full report, "Playing with Safety: Dangerous Toys and the Role of America's Civil Justice System," is at ww.justice.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME