It is a place that may contain toxic levels of lead, cadmium, phthalates, and antimony.
A Superfund toxic waste site? A research laboratory? Area 51?
Nope – your toy box.
Tuesday morning MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group) released its 28th annual dangerous toys report, “Trouble in Toyland” at CTI’s Children’s Corner Learning Center.
Among the dangers discovered this year were several toys that lab tests determined contain high levels of toxic substances, explained MASSPIRG Advocate Matthew Wellington.
A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pencil case, for instance, contains 150,000 ppm of DEHP, one of six phthalates banned from toys (the legal limit is 1,000 ppm), as well as excessive levels (600 ppm) of the toxic metal cadmium. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic more flexible.
Wellington explained the manufacturer is able to get away with using these high levels of chemicals because the law only applies to surface coatings of toys, but if a child were to chew on the soft pencil case he or she would ingest the toxins, which can cause long-term developmental delays and behavioral problems.
MASSPIRG’s survey of toys available for purchase in every place from dollar stores to the big box stores also found items that pose choking hazards, loud toys that can cause long-term hearing loss, and magnets that, if swallowed, can cause serious injury or death.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2009 and 2011 there were 1,700 emergency room visits attributed to the ingestion of high-powered magnets. More than 70 percent of those patients were children between the ages of 4 and 12.
“We’ve come a long way from Dan Aykroyd and Bag O’ Glass,” quipped Mayor Patrick Murphy.
While there may not be toys on the shelf today quite as obviously dangerous as the old favorite Bag O’Glass, the hidden dangers packaged in colorful boxes and available at the mall are just as dangerous.
Murphy said, while little can be done on a local level to regulate the manufacturing industry, “we can bring awareness to the issue, and tell the people in our community about the dangers of these products.”
“When toys become a danger, we have betrayed our children,” said Ainat Koren, a professor at UMass Lowell’s School of Nursing, adding that 100,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each year for toy-related injuries.
Koren said she advises parents to “think big” when buying toys for children under the age of 3, to avoid choking hazards. Additionally, some toys that appear to be age-appropriate may not pass the test of a curious child, who will take them apart and get small pieces stuck in his nose, ear or throat.
“If there is a quiet moment in the house, there is danger,” Koren said. “Check on your kid.”
Wellington said the best way to determine if a toy is a choking hazard is if it fits inside a cardboard toilet paper roll.
MASSPIRG’s complete 2013 “Trouble in Toyland” report is available here: http://www.masspirg.org/reports/maf/trouble-toyland-2013
In the last 28 years the annual report has lead to the recall of 150 dangerous toys.