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New Tool Helps NM Shoppers Avoid Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

December 3, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Choking hazards, high levels of lead and recently banned chemicals that can affect children's development are just a few of the things that can be found in toys still on store shelves this holiday shopping season. But a new tool can help parents identify and avoid those products while they shop.

Katie Lobasco, program associate with New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), says they tested a number of toys for hidden dangers like lead paint and recently-banned phthalates, found in many plastics. Their results are available in a new report online that parents can access from iPhones and Blackberries.

"When parents and shoppers go to our mobile site, www.toysafety.mobi, they'll find a list of toys we found that are potentially dangerous."

That list includes things like an "Elmo" lunch box with illegal amounts of phthalates, and a preschool book with paint containing lead levels more than 10 times the legal limit. Lobasco cautions that PIRG's list is not all-inclusive, but also points out that the web site also offers guidelines to help shoppers know what to look for, as well as a tool to report suspicious products.

Lobasco says the web site also offers simple tips, such as how to make sure that toys don't present a choking hazard.

"At home, parents can just use a toilet paper roll. If the toy fits inside the hole, the toy shouldn't be for children under 3 years old - it's too small."

Eric Mack/Gina Presson , Public News Service - NM