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Parents, this annual report warns of 'unsafe' toys that could harm your kids

Parents are being warned to watch out for choking hazards, toxin-tainted toys and extremely loud sounds.
Credit: AP Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For kids, it’s simple. See a toy – play with it.

But parents know better.

Once you start strolling the toy aisle – and ordering them blind online – it’s all about pulling, pushing, squeezing and smelling the toys you’re hoping will hold up against a 6-year-old’s imagination – or a toddler’s teeth.

The truth is, some of the potential dangers aren’t so easy to spot, so a consumer watchdog group releases an annual report. The United States Public Interest Research Group says there are 10 specific things parents should look for.

Toys with Sound

According to U.S. PIRG, a good rule of thumb is to trust your own ears. If a toy is a little too loud for you, it’s probably too loud for your child – and could potentially damage their hearing.

Mute it, hide the batteries – or return it.

Slime

It’s kind of nasty – but also irresistible…Admit it. The watchdog group says some slime is packed with high levels of boron. It’s a common element used to make everything from soap to glass – but it can be dangerous if a child eats it.

Fidget Spinners

They’re not toys, according to U.S. PIRG. They’re cheaply-produced products marketed to adults. Some have higher levels of lead, and they’re a very real choking hazard for little kids.

Toys with small parts

Choking is always a top danger when you’re talking about toys. U.S. PIRG says parents should pay close attention to the suggested ages on the box. Anything designed for kids 6+ can be really dangerous for younger children. Rule of thumb: If its smaller parts fit through a toilet paper roll – it’s too small.

‘Hatching’ Toys

Here’s another choking hazard, according to U.S. PIRG. The break-apart packaging can make lots of risky little pieces. Parents should pay close attention when they ‘hatch,' so they can quickly clean up.

Balloons

They’re pretty much a guaranteed smile – but the watchdog group says they’re also the number one choking hazard for children. U.S. PIRG says kids under three shouldn’t be allowed to play with them, and kids under eight should be supervised.

Smart toys

Phones and tablets are a part of life. There’s no denying it. Parents know it’s smart to limit screen time, but it’s impossible to keep a child completely analog these days. U.S. PIRG says it’s important to keep an eye on apps, games and toys that could collect private data from children – and consider avoiding the internet connection.

Makeup

Asbestos is a major problem in makeup marketed to kids, according to U.S. PIRG. The group recommends avoiding it altogether but specifically staying away from any makeup with talc. That’s a major asbestos culprit.

Small Magnets

If a child swallows them, they can be lethal. The watchdog group warns that the magnets can bunch together in the digestive system and cause serious internal damage. Young children shouldn’t be allowed to play with them, and older children should be monitored.

Used and older toys

There are few things a parent appreciates more than hand-me-downs – but U.S. PIRG says those ‘family heirlooms’ can be a holiday hazard. Basically, it’s about recalls. The government has a website you can check to make sure the toy is still considered safe.

Congresswoman Cathy Castor (D-FL) unveiled the report during a news conference Wednesday at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. She said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is also warning parents about the danger of non-motorized scooters because they pose a serious injury risk to children.

Naturally, none of this sits well with The Toy Association. The trade group released a statement in response to the U.S. PIRG report which reads, 

"U.S. PIRG uses the headline "Trouble in Toyland" for its annual report to needlessly frighten parents with baseless claims. What PIRG doesn't tell you (because it would not grab headlines) is that toys continue to be one of the safest consumer product categories found in the home. U.S. toy safety requirements include more than 100 standards and tests to ensure that toys are safe. These standards go above and beyond those for other consumer products. There are strict limits for lead and other chemicals in toys, internationally-emulated limits on sound level output, a highly effective small parts regulation that was developed with the help of pediatricians, and strict standards prohibiting the use of magnets in any toy part that is small enough to be swallowed."

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