The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released its 35th annual “Troubled in Toyland” report in late November identifying hazardous children’s toys as the holiday shopping season begins.
This year’s review says that as with most things in 2020, COVID-19 has an impact, amplifying the risks of dangerous toys as parents and children spend more time at home. Many parents focus on working remotely, making monitoring their children even more challenging.
Safety survey focuses on six categories
The group says progress has been made on keeping dangerous toys out of children’s hands. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 10 toys over the past year. However, this year’s report says many hazards remain. They identified these problems:
- Choking risks: The VTech Drill & Learn Toolbox at Target contains parts that pose a choking hazard.
- Flocked animal toys: At least one death of a New Mexico child and the near-death of a child in Utah are linked to Calico Critters. Both 3-year-olds reportedly choked on a pacifier accessory.
- Recalled items sold online: The group found several toys previously recalled that are still sold on eBay, including the Aflac Doctor Duck, the Barbie Dream Camper from Fisher-Price and a children’s grocery cart by Step2.
- Noisy toys: Excessively loud toys can damage a young child’s hearing in addition to being a nuisance. Researchers bought a toy firetruck on Amazon, and tests showed noise features that can harm a youngster’s hearing.
- Toys not suited for children: A 9-year-old required emergency surgery in May after swallowing magnets made by Zen Magnets, and another child the same age swallowed magnets in September from the Neutronball building set.
- Smartphone apps: Young children who use smartphones often access apps meant for older kids. One such app is called Coin Master. While it’s rated for age 13 and above, kid-friendly animations appeal to younger children.
Stronger safety standards are needed
The CPSC estimates that thousands of children have been treated in emergency rooms across the country due to choking hazards presented by magnets alone. The government even issued a ban on high-powered rare earth magnets, but that was overturned by a court in 2016. Several deaths have also resulted from these avoidable hazards leading, in some cases, to personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.