Trouble in Toyland Report Finds Chemicals, Hazards in Toys


The U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety for the last 30 years, and this year’s survey uncovered numerous hazardous toys, suggesting that despite progress, parents still need to exercise caution when shopping for their children.

Current results from the survey, Trouble in Toyland, found numerous choking hazards and five toys which had toxic levels which exceed federal standards.

Researchers conducted a number of laboratory tests on various toys for toxic chemicals like lead, chromium and phthalates, each of which lead to serious, adverse health effects on children.

The report also discovered a number of small toys that could be viewed as choking hazards, toys that were so incredibly loud they threatened children’s hearing, and magnet toys so powerful they could become a threat if swallowed, as two magnets swallowed could become fatal as they pull toward each other, ripping through intestine walls.

In addition, batteries swallowed can have fatal consequences if they burn through the esophagus, causing internal bleeding.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Sujatha Jahagirdar, U.S. PIRG Public Health Campaign Director.

Historically, the report has offered safety guidelines for parents to consider while purchasing toys, as well as examples of toys currently carried by stores that could potentially be a safety risk for children.  This year, researchers suggest parents carefully examine each toy prior to purchasing it, sign up for recall announcements, and to keep any small parts or batteries out of reach of children.

The report highlighted a number of findings, including a high number of toys currently on shelves that contain a level of phthalates, lead and chromium content, each over the legal limit.  Other toys were discovered that pose a choking hazard, despite a ban on these toys for children under the age of 3, including small foam blocks, small balls and balloons.  Each of these toys were not labeled as being a choking hazard.

“Parents should avoid shopping at stores that have not adopted a publicly available corporate policy on toxics in their products, such as Walgreens,” concluded Jahagirdar. “Without such a policy, Walgreens does not play an active role in ensuring the safety of the products it sells. Instead, Walgreens leaves it up to manufacturers and suppliers to ensure the safety of products.”

U.S. PIRG and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) stresses the importance of notifying the CPSC of any toys found to be unsafe through their website,  The website makes information available to other parents who may already own that toy or are thinking of purchasing it.

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