Toy Safety Survey Says ‘Bob the Builder’, ‘Curious George’ Top List of Unsafe Toys

Toy recall after toy recall this year has made parents anxious as they begin their holiday shopping.   It’s difficult to judge whether a toy is safe or not when it is tightly packaged and sitting on store shelf.  Fortunately, consumer protection groups have made it their business to try to identify unsafe toys.  Just in time for holiday shopping, the watchdog organization US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) released its annual toy safety survey in an effort to help consumers avoid hazardous products this holiday shopping season.

The 2007 “Trouble in Toyland” report is the 22nd annual toy safety survey conducted by US PIRG.  This year, US PIRG says it focused on four categories of unsafe toys: toys that may pose choking hazards, magnetic toys, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain lead and other potentially toxic chemicals. To compile the survey, representatives from US PIRG visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety.  The US PIRG “Trouble in Toyland” report also provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

Some of the unsafe toys highlighted by US PIRG in the “Trouble in Toyland Report” include a Bob the Builder doll, made by Learning Curve/RC2 that contains small parts that are a chocking hazard; Safari Magnetic Marbles, manufactured by Safari LTD that contain powerful magnets that can cause intestinal injuries if swallowed; and a number of Curious George dolls made by Marvel Toys that contain lead.  US PIRG says that such toys are unacceptable, and the organization is hoping that its report will cause the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to take action to get the toys included in the report off of the market.

The CPSC is one organization that comes in for a great deal of criticism in the US PIRG unsafe toy report.  Understaffed and underfunded, the CPSC cannot be counted on to keep unsafe toys away from children, says US PIRG.  According to the US PIRG “Trouble in Toyland” report, the CPSC is the nation’s smallest safety agency, yet it is responsible for 15,000 different products— from chain saws to escalators and from kitchen appliances to toys. Its current actual budget ($63 million) is less than half of what its 1974 startup budget ($34 million) would be today if merely corrected for inflation ($140 million). It has only one toy tester at its outdated Maryland laboratory; worse, only 15 of 400 total staff (down from a 1980 peak of 978) are on duty full-time as port inspectors.

US PIRG has called on Congress to close the holes in toy safety.  Currently, lawmakers are debating two bills that would give the CPSC more authority and funding.  Among other things, the proposed laws would increase fines against companies that produce unsafe toys, and give the CPSC authority to issue mandatory recalls.  Right now, the agency can only ask manufacturers of defective products to issue voluntary recalls.

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