While many toys can be fun and appear harmless, there are several items still on store shelves that CALPIRG says can be very dangerous. The group listed the unsafe toys for children in its annual Trouble in Toyland report, released Tuesday, warning parents of possible risks.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 250,000 kids were sent to the emergency room for toy-related injuries in 2010. Of those cases, 17 were fatal. Choking on small toy parts and balloons continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths.
"The main thing we see is little children playing with toys that they can swallow. And we are very, very concerned about swallowing hazards. Those are the simple types of things we see. It happens fast, but it can be deadly," said Dr. Jeffrey Upperman, director of Trauma and the Pediatric Disaster Resource Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
At a press conference Tuesday, CALPIRG's Austin Price advised parents to test the safety of a toy by dropping the toy or toy part through a toilet paper-sized cylinder. If the toy fits or easily falls through the cylinder, it presents a danger to children less than 3 years of age.
Another common safety problem is toys with high levels of toxic substances. "Little Hands Love" is a touch-and-feel book for children ages 1 and older, but according to CALPIRG's report, it has a lead content seven times above the safe standard for children.
Parents are urged to buy age-appropriate toys and research any item that they purchase for their children.
"Buy the right toy, at the right time, at the right place," advised Dr. Upperman.
The Toy Safety app, available from the United States Public Interest Research Group, can educate parents and families about unsafe toys.