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Parents, Beware: Dangerous Toys Remain in New Jersey Stores

Last month, we wrote about the potential dangers that lurk in toys and other holiday gifts intended for children. As previously discussed, Congress in 2009 strengthened consumer protection against potentially dangerous or defective products with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. However, according to a new report by the United States Public Interest Research Group, there are many toys on store shelves that have found ways around federal regulations, and a surprising number that violate the laws altogether. Knowledge and awareness, the group advises, is the key to keeping your child safe this holiday season.

In its study, the group inspected the toy offerings at several national chain stores during the months of September and October, and examined recent recalls and similar regulatory actions. It found that many products available for sale and marketed to children contain dangerous properties, such as lead, phthalates, antimony, and similar toxic metals.

Lead, exposure to which causes substantial harm to the brain and nervous system, has been largely limited by federal law. Despite this, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled over 500,000 toys and similar children's products within the last year alone for illegal lead levels, and researchers found even more on store shelves. Although some products containing lead do not violate the legal limit of 90 parts per million in surface coatings, the safe level of lead exposure for children has not been definitively established. Therefore, products do not necessarily need to violate the law in order to be harmful to children.

Phthalates are chemicals linked to reproductive defects and prematurity, and several varieties are banned by federal law. However, products containing the chemicals remain for sale. Similarly, antimony is widely regarded as a potential carcinogen, causing hair loss, lung damage and heart problems, yet many dangerous products are sold which violate the legal limit of 60 soluble migrated element in parts per million.

With its study, the group offered several tips for parents to ensure that their child was not exposed to these harmful products this holiday season. Parents should purchase toys made with natural materials, and stay away from toys that are made of PVC or brightly colored plastics, as those are more likely to contain damaging chemicals such as those discussed above.

Source: CBS Money Watch, "9 Toys to Avoid This Holiday Season," Marlys Harris, 1 Dec 2010

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