You Better Watch Out! Dangerous Toys On Store Shelves, Online During Holidays


AUSTIN, Texas – (Dec 2, 2014) – You better watch out. Some toys on store shelves and online this holiday season can make the little kids in your life cry.

Dr. Eric Higginbotham, medical director for the emergency department at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, joined Sara E. Smith, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, to unveil TexPIRG’s Trouble in Toyland 2014 report.


The annual survey, now in its 29th year, found that, despite recent progress, consumers still should be wary – especially when purchasing toys for young children prone to putting toys in their mouths.

Laboratory testing on toys found some with toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development.

The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard; extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing; and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

“I am not the guy you want your children to see after the holidays,” Higginbotham said. “The face of Christmas should not change from Santa Claus to an emergency room doctor. Happy holidays start with the real Santa Claus being a careful shopper – and carefully looking at gifts children get from others.”

Higginbotham said his children never see up to half the toys they’ve been given by others because he puts them away until they’re older – or he throws them away.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Some toys contain phthalates well over legal limits, as well as toys with lead or chromium content above limits.
  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, toys are available in stores that still pose choking hazards and are recommended on the packaging for children less than three years old.
  • Other toys are potentially harmful to children’s ears and hearing.
  • Some toys continue to include small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children, if swallowed.

Higginbotham noted that, if a child swallows two magnets, they can make it to the intestines and then stick together, trapping part of the intestinal wall between them, creating a hole and causing leakage into the abdomen.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” Smith said.

Over the past six years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market, Smith said. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.

She warned, however, that toys made outside the U.S. may not meet federal requirements. One cannot assume that if it’s on a toy shelf or a web page, a toy is safe.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s September ban on small, powerful toy magnet sets is also an important step forward. However, not all toys produced before then comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain, she said.

“Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect America’s kids from the hazards of unsafe toys,” Smith said. “No child should ever be injured, get sick or die from playing with a dangerous toy. Standards for toxic chemicals like lead and chromium remain too weak, and enforcement needs to be beefed up.”

The full Trouble in Toyland report is available online. Parents can find the U.S. PIRG’s list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at