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Survey outlines toy hazard

November 23, 2001

Survey outlines toy hazard

By KEVIN VERZICH / Staff Writer

With an estimated 191,000 children going to emergency rooms in 2000 for toy-related injuries, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group Tuesday released its November 2001 Trouble In Toyland list.

The results of the 16th annual survey of potential toy hazards were released and a toy demonstration was given at Building Blocks Child Development Center in Hagerstown.

Regan Lachapelle of MaryPIRG said hazardous toys can be found on store shelves across the country despite passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act.

Lachapelle said the annual report has been responsible for the recall of more than 100 toys and for various law enforcement actions over the last 15 years.


"Children needlessly choke to death on toys, and toys that pose hazards to children can still be found on store shelves," Lachapelle said. "Consumers should remember that just because a toy is in the store, or doesn't appear in PIRG's report, that doesn't mean that it is safe."

The report illustrates the hazards of certain toys collected in a survey of stores during October and November, she said.

Lachapelle said there are five categories of hazards associated with certain toys: Choking hazards, toxic hazards, hearing loss hazards, scooter dangers and purchase of toys on the Internet.

Lachapelle said choking on small parts, balloons and small balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths.

She said data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission illustrates that at least 207 children died between 1990 and 2000 playing with toys. In 2000, 17 children died while playing with toys, six of those from choking.

"Federal regulations ban any toy that poses a choking hazard because of small parts if it has a 'play value' for children under 3," Lachapelle said. "Tragically, children choke to death on toys and balls that are small enough to be put in the mouth and block the airway."

Lachapelle used as an example a toy kit called Lil Chef Marketplace, a collection of small plastic objects in the shapes of food, such as peach slices, pickles, oranges and eggs. Lachapelle said the objects are small enough to fit into a child's throat and cause choking.

One way to make sure that a toy is not a choking hazard is to take the core from a roll of toilet paper or paper towel roll and try to fit the object into the hole. If it fits, then it is a choking hazard.

Toxic chemical are another hazard the report addresses. Lachapelle said some toys contain chemicals known as phthalates that are added to polyvinyl chloride as a softener.

"The chemicals are linked to liver and kidney damage, are probably human carcinogens, and have already been banned by several European countries in toys for children under 3," Lachapelle said. "It is outrageous that manufacturers are making toys with toxic chemicals and often labeling them nontoxic."

The annual report outlines these and other concerns, as well as several policy recommendations PIRG finds to be helpful in selecting safe toys, Lachapelle said.

The full report is available from The State PIRGs, 218 D St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003 or the state PIRG toy safety Web site at

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