Group targets dangerous toys

November 25, 1998

Group targets dangerous toys

[list of toys] [safety tips]

examplesBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Toys inspired by the cuddly talking pig Babe of movie fame would seem like the perfect holiday gifts for children, but the Maryland Public Interest Research Group says that's not the case.

Small parts on Babe the Pig and Friends Bedtime Babe have prompted the watchdog consumer group to place the toy on its potentially dangerous list.


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The toy made the list because children could choke on the toy's small clock, according to Emily Greenfield MaryPIRG campaign director.

She said choking on small toy parts, balloons and small balls remains the leading cause of toy-related deaths.

Federal regulations ban any toy with parts small enough to pose a choking hazard if the toy has play value for children under the age of three, regardless of labeling to the contrary, according to Greenfield.

The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act banned balls with a diameter of less than 1.75 inches for use by children under three years old.

Despite such laws, hazardous toys are still being manufactured, said Greenfield.

"Children are still needlessly choking to death on toys, and dangerous toys can still be found on toy shelves," said Greenfield.

The situation is improving, however, she said.

An annual MaryPIRG survey of toys in stores determined that the number of dangerous items appears to be declining, she said.

GreenfieldGreenfield said more toys are carrying warnings designed to help reduce the number of choking-related deaths.

"But parents must remember that the government does not test all toys. Just because a toy appears on the shelf or fails to appear on MaryPIRG's list doesn't mean it is safe," said Greenfield.

Katie Nohe, consumer advocate with MaryPIRG, said the decrease in the number of dangerous toys on the shelves is a result of toy safety laws and the publicity of recalls.

"No company wants a toy recalled," she said.

In the Tri-State area, Toys R Us and Target stores were included in the MaryPIRG survey, Nohe said.

"We found the bigger stores to be more responsible. When we went to a lot of dollar stores we found some dangerous toys," she said.

Nohe said Toys R Us stores have in place an effective system to safeguard shoppers against purchasing recalled toys.

Register scanners are regularly updated with the codes of recalled toys and warn the cashier when the sale of such a toy is detected, said Brian Grady, manager of the Toys R Us store at Valley Mall.

"We are normally notified of a recalled toy 24 hours in advance and we take them off the shelves. But this system gives us the opportunity to catch any that we might have missed," he said.

Grady said when the scanner detects a recalled toy, management will tell the customer the toy has been recalled and suggest an alternative purchase.

When parents shop for presents at Toys R Us or other stores, Nohe advises that those with small children avoid toys with parts small enough to fit inside a toilet paper roll.

"Parents should also keep in mind the youngest age of the children at home," she said.

She said children often share toys, and an item suitable for a five-year-old could be dangerous for a two-year-old.

"One thing parents can do is if they have any suspicions at all that a toy might be dangerous or harmful, don't buy it," she said.

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