DARTMOUTH -- This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. MASSPIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron in slime products and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues.

“No one should worry about whether or not the toy they’re buying is toxic or dangerous. But in 2018, we’re still finding hazards in some of the most popular toys. Toy manufacturers must do better to ensure their products are safe before they end up in children’s hands and mouths,” said Max Ciarlone, the MASSPIRG Consumer Advocate at UMass Dartmouth

For more than 30 years, Trouble in Toyland has issued toy safety guidelines and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards to small children. Key findings from this year’s report include:

Hazardous Slime: A number of popular ‘slimes’ had toxic levels of boron, likely in the form of borax, up to fifteen times the European Union’s limit. According to the EPA, ingesting boron can cause nausea, vomiting, long-term reproductive health issues and can even be fatal.

  • Missing Online Choking Warnings: In a survey of five search pages for balloons sold on Amazon, U.S. PIRG found no choking hazard labels on 87 percent of the latex balloons marketed to parents of children under 2, an apparent violation of the law. Among children’s products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death.
  • Privacy-Invasive Smart Toys: The report also highlights two smart toys, a robot toy and a tablet, with privacy concerns discovered through an investigation by the Mozilla Foundation. Every year, the potential for smart toys to expose private data becomes a more significant concern.

“Regulators need to determine the appropriate health-based standards to protect children from boron in slime. In the meantime, we want parents to know the risks, so they can supervise their kids accordingly,” said Max Ciarlone, the Consumer Advocate at UMass Dartmouth.

While there are currently no limits on boron in children’s toys in the U.S., the advocacy organization called for placing warning labels on products and a full public hearing to determine safe levels of boron.

In addition to identifying dangerous toys already on store shelves, U.S. PIRG provides a guide on how parents, grandparents and other caretakers can ensure toys are safe and stay updated on recalled toys at www.ToySafetyTips.org.

The event today took on a different educational piece than this sophisticated evaluation of the toys. A representative from UMassD, the Director for Kiddie Kampus, and the consumer advocate came together and presented in front of over a dozen children at the Kiddie Kampus in Dartmouth. The event was geared towards teaching children about these dangers too, focusing especially on choking hazards and the importance of cleaning up toys. “We need to teach kids how to be safe themselves,” said Anne Nunes, Director of Kiddie Kampus in Dartmouth. “And equally as important the children need to know how to keep their home safe for their younger sibling”. Everyone wants to have a safe holiday season and the more that can be done to help the children learn how to be safe, the more families will have a holiday season they can enjoy. Anne focused her presentation on identifying choking hazards with demonstrations with toilet paper tubes and the children present teaching their younger siblings.

The final guest speaker was Dr. Karen Barnett, Assistant Dean at the College of Nursing at UMass Dartmouth. Dr. Barnett discussed the importance of children cleaning up after themselves, both to prevent choking hazards for younger siblings, but also to prevent children from tripping over toys and hurting themselves. Additionally, she talked with the students about the importance of wearing a helmet when riding toys like bikes and scooters. It’s these small reminders that can go a long way into avoiding everyday dangers that are sometimes forgotten in the wake of other issues.

These conversations were geared to protect kids from toys they currently have as well as ones they will expect to have as the holiday season approaches. The event was designed to educate students on how to recognize and avoid dangers with their toys and bring this advice back to their families. MASSPIRG, Kiddie Kampus, and UMass Dartmouth were excited to come together to provide this vital service to our community.

Information provided by MASSPIRG/UMass Dartmouth

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