Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Consumer advocacy group announces new Web site to check toy safety

ST. PETERSBURG — Parents are now armed with a new device to help them avoid unsafe toys: their cell phones.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group announced a new Web site Tuesday aimed at helping parents:

The site is aimed at cell phone users — that's why it ends in .mobi — so they can check the safety of toys while walking through the aisles of stores.

That's good news to Lisa Stone. The 40-year-old was shopping at Target Tuesday afternoon with her 8-year-old daughter, Sophia. Stone, who also has a 19-year-old son, said she used to go online to check whether toys are safe. But if she had the option to check on her phone, it's something she would have used.

"You just never know what could be dangerous," she said as her daughter played with a jack-in-the-box. "Even though she's older, she still puts things up to her mouth."

Tuesday morning the Florida arm of the public advocacy group spoke at All Children's Hospital, discussing the new Web site as well as the organization's 24th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report. Most of the "trouble" involves toys that pose choking hazards for very young children.

There have been 368 toy-related deaths in the United States since 1990, according to the report. More than half were caused by choking or asphyxiation. Many could have been prevented if the dangerous toys weren't on the shelves to begin with, consumer advocates say.

State Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, said 1.3 million toys were recalled last year because of lead tainting.

"That's 1.3 million too many, in my opinion," he said.

A table full of toys stood next to the podium. Brad Ashwell, a consumer advocate with the Florida Public Interest Research Group, pointed out the various defects.

Some, such as a purse, had pieces that didn't appear to have any problems. But testing showed the purse tested contained a toxic chemical called phthalate.

Other toys the group checked had parts that could cause children to choke, were excessively loud and could cause hearing loss or contained high concentrations of lead.

"And here is the most menacing and terrible toy on the shelves," Ashwell said. "The balloon."

With children always wanting to put items in their mouths, balloons become a big choking hazard, he said. But most parents don't automatically think about that, he said.

The report says 78 out of 196 choking deaths were caused by balloons, or 40 percent.

In 2008, Congress overhauled the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which included a push for more toy inspections following highly publicized recalls of tainted toys. In a show of its new role, the commission recalled more than 2.1 million baby cribs it deemed unsafe.

"So progress has been made," Ashwell said. "But we have a long way to go. … Compared to where we were 16 years ago, we're light years ahead."

Toy safety is something Laurin Letzring, 46, knows about. She was out shopping Tuesday with her fourth child, 6-year-old Joey. She said if she were a brand-new parent, the mobile toy safety site is definitely something she would use. She said although the site sounds useful, she has another thing on her side: her 17 years of parenting experience.

"If whatever I've done hasn't killed them yet," she joked, "I think we've done a good job so far."

Andy Boyle can be reached at or (727) 893-8087.

Consumer advocacy group announces new Web site to check toy safety 11/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 10:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  2. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  3. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  4. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  5. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990