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Arizona PIRG Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

Calls passage of strong reforms good step but warns “Buyer Beware” this year
For Immediate Release

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, despite a new law overhauling the nation’s product safety watchdog agency, according to the State PIRG’s 23rd annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG). The group also warned that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is taking actions to delay one of the new law’s toxic toy protections indefinitely.

“While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a major step forward, many of its protections will not be in effect until 2009, so it is still Buyer Beware this shopping season,” said Alex Nelson, representative of Arizona PIRG. Last week the CPSC told companies that they could continue to sell toys with toxic phthalate chemicals until they ran out of them, instead of complying with the law’s clear prohibition against selling them after February 10th, 2009.

According to the most recent data from the CPSC, toy-related injuries sent more than 80,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2007. Eighteen children died from toy-related injuries that year.

For 23 years, the State PIRG’s Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.

Among the findings of the 2008 Trouble In Toyland Report:

Lead in Toys and Children’s Jewelry: Children exposed to lead can suffer lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development and even death. In 2006, a four year old died of lead poisoning after he swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99% lead.

“Congress took important steps to address the serious health risks that lead poses to children, yet consumers can still find lead-laden children’s jewelry and lead painted toys on store shelves until the protections take effect next year,” continued Nelson.

Toxic Phthalates: Numerous scientists have documented the potential health effects of exposure to phthalates in the womb or at crucial stages of development, including (but not limited to) reproductive defects, premature delivery, early onset puberty, and lower sperm counts. Effective February 10th, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) bans toys for children that contain concentrations more than 0.1% of a toxic chemical used in plastics called phthalates.

“Congress clearly intended that the new law would also stop the sale of toys containing toxic phthalates in February, but last week’s CPSC legal opinion told manufacturers that can keep selling the remaining millions of hazardous toys until they run out, which could take years,” said Nelson. “Congress gave America’s littlest consumers the gift of safety—the CPSC should take it away.”

Choking Hazards: In 1979, the CPSC banned the sale of toys for children younger than three if they contain small parts. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act required an explicit prominent choke hazard warning on toys with small parts for children aged between three and six. Arizona PIRG found toys with small parts for children under six without the required explicit choke hazard warning.

Arizona PIRG called on Congress and the CPSC to do the following:

• CPSC should vigorously enforce the CPSIA’s strong protection against lead and reverse its recent decision allowing continued sale of toxic phthalates in children’s products. CPSC must also move swiftly to implement all rules required under the new law; ensure that new third-party testing programs meet the new law’s standards; and, move quickly to implement the new law’s publicly-accessible hazards database requirement.

• Congress and the Administration should work to overhaul U.S. toxics policy to begin to assess the thousands of chemicals currently on the market for which little or inadequate health data are available, and to require manufacturers to ensure that they are using the least hazardous chemicals possible.

• Congress should fully fund the CPSC’s increased budget authorizations for the next five fiscal years, and conduct vigorous oversight over the implementation of the new law.

Nelson also reminded parents that the toy list in the Arizona PIRG report is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves, and urged consumers to shop with a copy of Arizona PIRG’s Tips for Toy Safety, included in the report and at www.toysafety.net.

“Shoppers should remember to examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before you make a purchase this holiday season.” Nelson concluded.

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