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Warning: Some Toys May be Hazardous

December 13, 2010

CHICAGO - There's nothing like the satisfaction of watching a child's eyes light up at the sight of a brand-new holiday toy. But the wonder can quickly turn to panic if the toy hasn't been chosen carefully. The number of toy-related injuries in America has risen every year since 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, the CDC says there were more than a quarter of a million toy-related emergency room visits last year.

Brian Imus with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says dangerous toys are still easy to find.

"We actually took some toys we found on store shelves and had them tested for antimony and for lead and for phthalates. And we were able to find some toys out there that still contained dangerous levels of those chemicals."

The Illinois PIRG had toys tested at an EPA-certified lab, which Imus points out is not really an option for busy families.

"Parents shouldn't have to be scientists to be able to determine whether the toys their children are playing with are safe."

Imus says his organization was contacted by a consumer who had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her one-year-old son who swallowed a small toy peg that was one centimeter larger than the legal size requiring a choking hazard label. So the toy did wind up on its watch list.

Loyola Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Thomas Esposito knows from experience that children can be unpredictable with the way they use their toys.

"Over the years I've learned not to be surprised by anything. Just when you think you've seen it all and seen everything, something else new comes in and it's like, 'Oh my God, I would never have thought that could happen.'"

Dr. Esposito says it's important to have laws that protect children, watchdog groups that make sure the laws are enforced, and parents who pay attention.

Illinois parents can find out about recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and they can also get help by downloading an app on smart phones at toysafety.mobi

The Illinois PIRG toy safety study is at cdn.publicinterestnetwork.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL