Report:

Trouble in Toyland

Counterfeit toys evade safety rules, endanger children
Released by: PennPIRG Education Fund

THE HOLIDAYS are right around the corner again. As millions of Americans purchase toys before the year ends, they can take comfort in the improvement of toy safety in recent years thanks to hard work from consumer advocates, elected officials, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the industry itself. 

But, even with the advances in toy safety, dangerous toys still can and do end up on the market, largely because of counterfeits and recalled toys still available. So far in 2021, 13 toys have been recalled by the CPSC. The recalled toys posed risks including high levels of lead, potential foreign-body ingestion by a child and choking because of small parts from easily broken toys. In addition, PIRG Education Fund researchers found two additional recalled products — a hoverboard and a children’s watch accessory — that many would consider toys.

These days, toys with safety risks are less likely to be found at traditional retail stores, which stock toys from importers and manufacturers that are required to have a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC). The CPC designates that the toy follows all applicable federal safety standards for children.

But when shopping on websites that act as the middleman between the customer and the seller, consumers can encounter hidden hazards. The middlemen do not consider themselves to be traditional retailers and therefore often do not follow the same rules that a traditional retailer would. Whereas the retailers must receive a certificate of compliance from a manufacturer before selling a toy, not every toy sold online may be covered by a CPC.

Further, what is described in the website listing might not be the toy that arrives at your door. The toys could even contain toxics, and most parents don’t have access to labs that could test for harmful substances. In this report, we share our best tips on how to identify potentially unsafe toys sold online and in stores. Bad actors have found success selling fake goods on websites that consumers know and trust.

The CPSC estimated that there were 198,000 toy-related injuries treated at emergency-rooms in 2020. This is a notable decrease from toy-related injuries reported from 2013 to 2019, when injury reports ranged from 224,200 to 251,700 per year.

With many Americans staying at home more during 2020, the increased supervision could account for this drop in toy-related injuries. The best way to keep a child safe from injury from a toy is to keep an eye on them, look out for any broken toys and to ensure the toys are age appropriate.

Our 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report calls attention to seven toy safety issues, along with tips to minimize the risk in your home.

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