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November 21, 2012

Playing with danger

Annual 'Trouble in Toyland' report details unsafe toys


To the backdrop of the kids playing in the family room, Gabrielii Augustsson held up another “Dora the Explorer” product. This time a cute little backpack with the words “Explorers Wanted” printed across the back.

He explained the small pack contains phthalates, a toxic acid used during the manufacturing to soften plastic.

“This is really toxic,” he said. “So kids shouldn’t be chewing on this.”

A major cause of toy-related death and injury is choking from balloons, balls and toys with smaller parts, according to the report. Many toys are either missing age labels or are improperly labeled, Gabrielii Augustsson said.

Regulations currently say toys for children under the age of 3 shouldn’t be able to fit into a cylinder with a diameter of 1.25 inches, but many toys fall short of the requirement, he said. The group recommended parents use a normal toilet paper roll to determine if a product is too small for a young child.

There are also concerns over powerful magnetic toys, especially if swallowed, he said.

Salem state Rep. John Keenan was in attendance to support the work of the organization.

“When my kids were growing up, both of them used to put stuff in their mouths all the time,” Keegan said. “It never ceases to amaze me that every year manufacturers come up with a new choking hazard one way or the other.”

Gabrielii Augustsson said MASSPIRG supports stronger regulations for toys because 80 percent of toys are produced overseas.

“But that is no reason for us not to have high standard on our toys,” he said. “(The U.S.) is the largest toy market in the world.”

The group has a cellphone application where people can look up potentially dangerous toys and report possible violations. For more information, go to

Unsafe toy statistics

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