Empire Editorial: Whatever you do, don't gnaw on these toys

You won’t want to use the Captain America Soft Shield, meant for ages two and up, as a chew toy. It was found to contain 29 times the standard level for lead (2,900 ppm). And we recommend steering clear of the Ninja Turtles Pencil Case, which was found to contain 150,000 ppm of one of six phthalates banned from toys, as well as excessive levels (600 ppm) of the toxic metal cadmium. Not that most will be caught licking pencil cases, but with young kids you just never know.

These findings come from a recent annual report titled “The 2013 Trouble in Toyland,” issued by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In the report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children, and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

This year’s report identified hazards in toys that range from strangulation or choking pitfalls to those with hidden toxicities. There were even toys found to be too loud for young, developing ears.

The report highlighted the continued presence of lead in toys, as well as other toxic chemicals such as phthalates, antimony and cadmium. It’s widely known that lead is harmful to the human body; exposure can affect almost every organ and system, especially the central nervous system.

This year’s report also cautioned against some toys that contained choking hazards, were too noisy — some toys have been proven to cause hearing loss in young children — or have powerful and potentially harmful magnets that, when ingested, can lead to an emergency room visit.

Perhaps you’ve seen the very cool, but not for kids, Buckyball magnets. According to the U.S. PIRG report, in 2009 and 2011 there were 1,700 emergency room cases nationwide involving the ingestion of high-powered magnets. Furthermore, more than 70 percent of these cases involved children between the ages of 4 and 12. The report outlined a few other similar products marketed for kids deemed unsafe.

The report isn’t terribly detailed, though it does point to some specific toys that should be avoided.

So what’s the take-home message in all this? Consumers need to continue to be vigilant. If you’re shopping for a youngster, use common sense and look for toys that are built with natural fibers and materials, and which are advertised as nontoxic.

Even still, it’s OK to be sceptical if a toy comes from a foreign country. And remember this: The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not test all toys, and not all toys on store shelves meet CPSC standards.

Find the full report here: http://www.uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/trouble-toyland-2013.

Find the Alaska PIRG report here: http://www.akpirg.org/report_28th_annual_trouble_in_toyland_study.

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