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Trouble in toyland: Safety advocates sound the alarm

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Many parents like to assume that any toys on store shelves are 100 percent safe for their children.

Sadly, safety advocates at the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan say that's not the case. Each year, the group, working with Beaumont Children's Hospital, warns parents to do their toy safety homework during the holiday season, and all year long.

Among the toys surveyed this year, PIRG found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentration of toxic exceeding federal standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for enforcing toy safety standards. For almost 30 years, the group has worked with the Commission to improve toy safety, leading to 150 recalls and other regulatory actions.

However, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund says it examined hundreds of toys and found unsafe toys are still available on toy shelves. The problems include: toys with too much lead, toys containing chromium, toys containing phthalates, potentially dangerous magnets, and toys that make excessive noise.

When it comes to choking hazards, a nurse from the Beaumont Pediatric Trauma Program showed show some toys just barely meet safety standards, but she said could still pose a choking hazard if a child managed to swallow the toy. She demonstrated a safety experiment anyone can perform around the house.

"The recommendations are for kids under three to utilize a simple toiler paper tube. Everybody has this in their home and if it (the toy) fits directly through the tube, then it's too small for a child three and under," said Erica Surman, RN, manager Pediatric Trauma Program, Beaumont Children's Hospital.

What Can Parent Do to Protect Their Children

PIRG has several ways to help parents do their toy safety homework. First, you can check the group's website at www.toysafetytips.org. You should examine toys carefully before you make your purchase. You can also subscribe to government announcements of recalled products at www.recalls.gov.

If you already have some toys in your home that cause you concern, PIRG says you should remove any small batteries if there is any question that children could gain access to them. You can disable or tape over the speakers on any toys that are too loud. Of course, you should also make sure toys for small children don't have any parts that are easily pulled off and could end up in their mouths.

If you do your homework and check your children's toys, you should have a safe and happy holiday season.


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