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Fewer harmful toys found this year, but some holiday hazards remain

Fewer toys were flagged this year for being dangerous to children because they had toxic chemicals or posed a danger to choking. But the latest Trouble in Toyland report warned there are still hazardous toys to beware.

For the report, produced by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, toys were analyzed at a laboratory to check for toxic chemicals, like lead, chromium and phthalates. All can have serious, adverse effects on a child’s development.

The public-interest group also looked for small toys that could potentially cause a child to choke, as well as extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

Two dozen toys were analyzed by the group, which has put together a toy safety report for 29 years. None of the potentially dangerous items had been recalled, the group noted.

The good news is that the number of dangerous toys on store shelves in 2014 is less than it has been in the past.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who appeared at the news conference, has no affiliation with the public-interest group. Her office, however, puts together their own safe shopping guide. She said 14 toy items were recalled in 2014, which is down substantially from 2007, she added, when dozens of cases were reported.

Parents seem to be more aware about these dangers to their children, Dev Gowda, a spokesman for Illinois PIRG, added.

But Madigan noted that there are always new toys created and therefore, new potential dangers.

“Hazardous children’s products are still far too readily accessible,” Madigan said. “This report remains an important resource in identifying dangerous products to ensure a safe holiday season of giving.”

Toy Industry Association, a lobbyist for toy manufacturers and retailers, though, issued a statement Monday, saying “toy safety” reports had unreliable data in them.

“All toys sold in the United States – no matter where they are produced – are highly regulated by the U.S. federal government and must meet more than 100 safety standard requirements,” the statement on its website said.

Among the hazardous toys the public-interest group found: Hello Kitty toy hair clips, purchased at a JoAnn Fabric and Craft store, that had 5 times the limit of phthalate DEHP; a toy tambourine purchased at Dollar Tree that exceeded the limits for chromium; and Dora the Explorer Lights & Sounds Trike from Wal-Mart that was found to be extremely loud.

The report also cited 15 toys that posed a choking hazard; some, for example, had small parts. Choking is the leading cause of injury and death among children aged 3 and younger, said Dr. Elizabeth Powell, who works in emergency medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The full report can be found here.