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Though recalls have made headlines, some unsafe toys remain in stores.
By LISA GREENE
Published November 21, 2007
[Ken Helle | Times]
Increased inspections and stiffer punishments for makers of unsafe toys are needed to protect children, said leaders of the Florida Public Interest Research Group.
"The best holiday gift Congress could give America's littlest consumers this year ... is a bill that would protect them from unsafe toys," said Brad Ashwell, consumer advocate for the Florida research group.
On Tuesday, the group released its annual national toy safety report, titled "Trouble in Toyland." The report comes after a series of high-profile recalls, affecting some versions of Barbie, Polly Pocketsand Thomas the Tank Engine.
Those recalls made headlines with reports of lead paint and unsafe magnets in the toys. Lead paint is toxic, and magnets can damage internal organs if swallowed.
Despite the flurry of action, unsafe toys remain in stores, the research group says. In Florida, the group's report was released at a child care center adjoining Tampa General Hospital. Ashwell joined U.S. Rep Kathy Castor, D-Tampa,and Dr. Neil Reinhardt, associate director of Tampa General's pediatric emergency department, to warn parents of potential toy hazards.
"There are so many dangerous toys on the shelves this year," Castor said. "Our safety standards in the U.S. are not what they should be." Castor is one of 150 co-sponsors of a bill to crack down on unsafe toys.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission desperately needs more funding and more inspectors, Castor said.
"Unfortunately, this agency has been starved for resources over the years," she said.
Toymakers agree that changes need to be made, said Frank Clarke, a spokesman for the Toy Industry Association, which represents about 500 toy companies. But the recalls have fixed many problems, Clarke said.
Lisa Greene can be reached at email@example.com.
Playing it safe
Consumer advocates recommend that parents:
- Make sure toys for children younger than 3 don't have any parts that are small enough to fit through the tube of a roll of toilet paper. For example, small elastic bands and Hot Wheels vehicles can be choking hazards for small children.
-Make sure toys don't have small parts that can break off easily.
-Seek medical attention if a child swallows a magnet.
-Buy helmets and safety pads for use with kids' bikes or scooters.
-Never give young children small balls or balloons.
-For more safety tips, go to www.toysafety.net.
[Last modified November 20, 2007, 23:20:22]