Organization presents its annual warning about toys

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Lisa Ritland of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group demonstrates the choking hazard that a small toy can cause during a news conference Tuesday at Community Hospital. The organization presented its 27th annual report with safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and examples of toys on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

A plastic Dora the Explorer backpack and a pink Dora plastic guitar. Small balls, balloons, magnets and children’s jewelry. A large set of plastic food.

These brightly-colored toys and plenty of others may seem innocuous enough, but they harbor some dangers for young children. Those are the findings of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group’s 2012 Trouble in Toyland report.

For the 27th year, CoPIRG has released its report on toys that pose a choking, noise or strangulation hazard or that surpass legal levels of toxic chemicals.

All of the toys the organization determines to be unsafe for children were purchased at major brand stores in the past month, CoPIRG spokeswoman Lisa Ritland said.

“This is a big priority for us for Black Friday and before the holiday shopping season because we know that parents will be shopping for their kids,” she said during a meeting with the media on Tuesday.

CoPIRG uses several tests to determine whether toys are safe for children. Possibly the greatest threat to children are toys that pose a choking hazard, Ritland said.

Between 2005 and 2010, 50 children in the U.S. died while choking on balloons, toys or parts of toys, she said.

Parents can determine whether toys or toy parts are too small for their children by fitting them through an empty toilet paper roll, Ritland said.

“If the toy or part fits through it, it’s too small for a child under 3,” she said, placing a Snake Egg magnet through the tube. “We all know that toddlers put everything in their mouths.”

CoPIRG also warns consumers about toys with higher than accepted levels of lead and plastics.

For example, the plastic backpack with a waving Dora and her monkey, Boots, contains somewhat high levels of the phthalates. The plastics in this backpack, which register 320 parts per million, must be disclosed in some states, though the level is acceptable under federal law which allows phthalates at 1,000 parts per million. High levels of phthalates can contribute to developmental problems in children.

A matching pink Dora guitar poses a hazard for another reason. Noise levels at 93 decibels of the press-to-play toy can contribute to hearing loss, Ritland said. The toy is manufactured by Fisher-Price.

Another toy, a CAT steering wheel manufactured by, also may be too loud for children, Ritland said. It registers at 85 decibels. Prolonged noise above 80 decibels can be harmful to children, CoPIRG said.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 limits the amount of lead that can be in children’s products. Children’s products should contain less than 100 parts per million of lead, yet some toys manufactured before 2011 can be sold with the higher lead content.

CoPIRG officials found one toy, a Morphobot, that tested at 180 parts per million of lead. The toy is manufactured by GreenBrier International Inc.

“Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Ritland said in a release.

CoPIRG’s entire list of potentially dangerous toys is at


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