Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Health

Consumer groups send out a warning for the holidays: Beware of 'potentially hazardous' toys

ST. PETERSBURG — Everyone wants a Slinky.

But a tiny version of the timeless toy — available in stores this holiday season — could pose a threat to young children, according to a report released Tuesday by the consumer group U.S. PIRG.

The Slinky Jr. was one of 22 toys identified as "potentially hazardous" in this year's Trouble in Toyland survey. It was flagged for having high levels of chromium, which can cause rashes, ulcers and cancer.

"It can be very, very toxic by skin contact or ingestion," said Petra Vybiralova, the safe kids supervisor at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.

Alex Brands, the company that manufactures the Slinky, did not return calls from the Tampa Bay Times.

Two other toys were identified as having high levels of chromium: a locking pencil case by Vaultz and a set of magnetic numbers by Greenbrier International.

The Fun Bubbles Jump Rope, meanwhile, was flagged for having high levels of phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make plastics. Phthalates can harm the development of the male reproductive system.

The findings weren't limited to potentially toxic products.

The report said the Vtech Spin and Learn Color Flashlight, LeapFrog's Fridge Phonics and the Fisher-Price Click 'n Learn Remote could harm children's hearing.

"Kids' ears are fragile and certain toys marketed as cell phones are meant to be used close to the ear," said Susan McGrath, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network.

Toys identified as choking hazards included Dive and Splash Mermaid Dora by Fisher-Price and a figurine of Dory from the movie Finding Nemo made by the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.

None of the manufacturers returned calls seeking comment.

Now in its 30th year, the Trouble in Toyland report has prompted the recall of about 150 products, according to U.S. PIRG. The most recent report was rolled out locally at a news conference Tuesday at All Children's.

Attendees included U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

"You would think that because a toy is on the shelf it is guaranteed to be safe," she said. "That's not really the case."

To conduct this year's analysis, the U.S. PIRG purchased more than 200 toys and tested them for toxic contaminants and excessive noise.

Investigators used a clear tube known as a "choke test cylinder" to determine which toys might get lodged in a child's throat. But Vybiralova said parents could make the same determination using a familiar household object.

"If it fits through an average toilet paper roll, your child can choke on it," she said.

The report also issued warnings about toys with magnets and small batteries — both of which were echoed Tuesday by the All Children's chief of staff, Dr. Joe Perno.

Perno said he had seen cases in which two magnets caused internal damage by coming together inside a child's intestines, and in which small batteries got caught in a child's esophagus and started leaking acid. "Once that damage is done, it can have life-long repercussions for the child," he said.

The findings surprised Aaron Carmella, a father of two from St. Petersburg.

"My son has a Slinky just like that one," he said. "I had no idea there would be a (high) level of chromium in that."

His takeaway from the report?

"You definitely need to be vigilant," he said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

   
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