Dangerous toys identified by group Items said to expose children to choking hazards, chemicals on list

Consumer affairs

November 25, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

A Babe the Pig toy, a Barney birthday balloon set and cartoon character teething toys may sound like great gift ideas, but the Maryland Public Interest Research Group yesterday labeled them among 20 of the most dangerous toys in America.

At a news conference yesterday at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on West Preston Street, MaryPIRG released its 13th annual report aimed at creating public awareness of toys that expose children to choking hazards or toxic chemicals, said Katie Nohe, the research group's consumer advocate.

"This is a joyous time and parents who are out purchasing toys over the next 30 days should be very careful," said Dr. Martin P. Wasserman, Maryland's health secretary.

Other toys identified as dangerous by MaryPIRG include:

Cool Ring Teether, manufactured by the First Years Inc., contains polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Funny Face Teether Rattle, manufactured by Playskool, contains PVC.

Free Wheeling ConstructTeam, manufactured by Fisher Toys, poses a choking hazard.

Mini Fruits and Vegetables Bucket, manufacturered by Battat, poses a choking hazard.

Talking Pay Phone, manufactured by Playskool, poses a choking hazard.

Nationwide, there were 141,300 emergency room visits last year from toy-related injuries and 2,500 visits in Maryland, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Nationally, 13 children died last year, 11 from choking.

The report included five toys that contain PVC, a chemical that contains softeners known as phthalates. It has been linked to liver and kidney damage, especially if placed in the mouth for extended periods of time.

Some toy manufacturers, including Gerber Products Co., said they would remove phthalates from their products.

Gerber's Baby Looney Tunes Cooling Ring Teether, which is made with PVC and is listed in the report, is still on store shelves because the company "can't just phase out current products without replacing it with something new," said Malesia Webb-Dunn, a spokeswoman for the Fremont, Mich.-based company. "It takes time."

Labeling

All of the toys -- minus the teething ones -- include some sort of hazard labeling on the package. But the labeling is incorrect or doesn't override the toys "play value," meaning the toys have a bright color or are soft or make noise -- all characteristics young children look for in a toy, Nohe said.

For example, she said, a label on the Baby's First Birthday toy says it is illegal for children under 8 years old to play with balloons, but the toy is marketed to toddlers celebrating their first birthday and features Barney.

Balloons are the leading cause of choking deaths among children, the report said.

The Babe the Pig and Friends Bedtime toy is labeled for children ages 3 and up, and it includes a choking hazard for children younger than 3, but the "play value" of the toy still endangers young children, Nohe said.

The toy has a clock accessory that could cause choking, the report said.

The list of dangerous toys will be forwarded to the consumer HTC commission with a request that they be recalled, she said.

The last 12 annual reports have resulted in about 50 toy recalls.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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