Happy Holidays! Ready to shop for the kids and grandkids? hmph We neither. But we adjust our reindeer antlers, “ho ho ho,” happily, and dutifully avoid the toys that might sicken or kill them.
The California Public Interest Research Group released its 37th annual Trouble in Toyland report last week and was able to easily purchase online dozens of recalled toys, including Blue Panda Army Action Figure Playsets (excessive levels of toxic phthalates and lead), Aflac plush promotional ducks by Communicorp (toxic phthalates), Activity Loops by The Manhattan Toy Co. (tubes can detach and release plastic parts that can choke on small children), Blue’s Clues Foot to Floor Ride-on Toys by Huffy Corp (the one on the toy can use tipping forward over a small child) and far too many others.
“Recalled toys can still be purchased—often brand new—days, weeks, and sometimes years after they were deemed dangerous,” said Sander Kushen, prosecutor for CALPIRG and the CALPIRG Education Fund. “Around 200,000 children visit an emergency room for toy-related injuries and illnesses each year, which is declining slightly but still unacceptable. And that doesn’t include injuries that didn’t require trips to the emergency room.”
The PIRG Education Fund purchased and received more than 30 recalled toys in October from US-based online sellers, including Facebook Marketplace and eBay, as well as several online toy stores. “It is noteworthy that we have performed keyword searches on Amazon of every toy we have purchased and have not been able to find any of the recalled items for sale,” the report said.
The toys were recalled because they depicted choking and laceration injuries, as well as possible poisoning, the report said. Still, there are many toys and related items that are not recalled, but still pose serious dangers, especially to small children.
One of them are those shiny button batteries found in keychains and remote controls and even in the toys themselves.
Emergency room visits for swallowed button batteries have doubled over a decade, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
“It is shocking that in 2019, children under the age of 5 swallowed 1,843 coin cell batteries, of which 1,502 required medical attention, according to the National Capital Poison Center,” the report said.
“These batteries are also a danger for older children. CPSC data shows that for a seven-month period in 2020, battery-related injuries in children ages 5 to 9 increased 93 percent compared to the previous year.”
If a child swallows a coin cell or button cell battery, it can cause severe tissue burns that can spread even after the battery is removed, the report said. Several children have even died.
fakes and hacks
Counterfeit toys remain a major problem. They do not necessarily meet required US safety standards, may contain hazardous chemicals, are often of poor quality, and can cause injury.
“If a product was hard to find a few weeks ago, you’re online and you find it, and it’s a lot cheaper, you should do more research to find out if it’s fake,” Kushen said.
There are also privacy concerns. Some internet and Bluetooth-connected toys can be easily hacked, with slobs eavesdropping on your little ones and/or sending messages directly to their tiny ears.
Strange: In 2017, an unsecured Bluetooth connection on the microphone-equipped My Friend Cayla doll turned the doll into a communication device. Smartphones automatically recognized the doll as a normal hands-free headset.
Creepy: In 2021, PIRG found a similar security issue with The Singing Machine, a Bluetooth karaoke microphone. Researchers connected to it from outside a home, about 30 feet away. “A bad actor could connect to the device and play anything from an explicit song to a voice recording telling a child to come outside,” the report said.
Magnets are always a headache. They can be swallowed and wreak havoc by sticking through a child’s intestinal walls. It’s not just small children who are at risk here: young people use magnets to fake lip and tongue piercings.
“If two or more magnets are swallowed, they can connect and compress internal tissues and cause serious problems such as intestinal obstruction or blood poisoning,” the report said.
Oops! Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, relatives and friends who want to spoil the munchkins need to pay attention, do research and keep vigil, CalPIRG said.
When a child gets a new toy, parents should examine the toy thoroughly, said Dr. Jerri Rose of UH-Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland in a prepared statement. Are there small parts that can break off and end up in a child’s mouth, or expose sharp parts that they can cut? Is the toy approved for your child’s age group? Is it labeled non-toxic? If it’s electric, is it UL approved? If batteries are present, particularly button batteries, are the compartments secure enough to withstand tykes’ lockpicking tendencies?
Check saferproducts.gov to see if the toy has been recalled. Be suspicious of toys from unknown sellers or international sellers. Check to see if the manufacturer has their own official website, and if so, note warnings such as typos, misspellings, and poorly photoshopped images. Research toy reviews online.
Among the recalled toys to be wary of this season: Koyo Bounca The Squig Plush, FAO Schwarz Toy Wood Play Smart Robot Buddy(s) and FAO Schwarz Toy Wood Sensory Boards, Wonder & Wise Activity Tables by Asweets, Monti Kids Toy Box with Bins, Kidoozie Play Tents and Playhouses, Early Learning Center Little Senses Lights & Sounds Shape Sorter Toys and Kidoozie My First Activity Desk Toys, according to the report.
“This is a wake-up call for everyone — manufacturers, parents, buyers, government officials — to make toys safer and safer every year,” Kushen said. “Hopefully in a year we won’t have to do a ‘Trouble in Toyland’ report.”
See bit.ly/3Ekrvxy for the full report.