Holiday shopping season is upon us once again. As a parent, relative or friend, shopping for toys for the children in your life can be a challenge.
We don't always know if the gifts will be a hit but the one thing we count on is that the toys we purchase are safe. Thanks to the hard work of agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and consumer advocates like U.S. PIRG that's largely true. But as our toy shopping researchers have found, that's not always the case.
Each year, NHPIRG publishes a report, "Trouble In Toyland," that highlights a sampling of unsafe toys, ones we found in a survey of toy stores across the country. Over the past 25 years, the findings of our report have paid off, leading to more than 100 recalls and millions children's products pulled from store shelves. The findings also provided valuable evidence in support of the need for a 2008 law that gave the CPSC more authority to crack down on manufacturers and importers of dangerous toys.
Though there has been important progress, parents need to be aware of ongoing hazards and be on the lookout for unsafe products. More than 250,000 American children made trips to the emergency room in 2009 due to toy-related injuries. Toy safety should not be a political or partisan issue. I have yet to hear any policy maker argue 'caveat emptor' (let the buyer beware) as it relates to toddlers. That is why it is all the more shocking to see new, sweeping attacks in Congress on some of the most basic health and safety protections for young children as well as the broader public.
One bill, the REINS Act, would not only allow but require congressional meddling in the implementation of all public health and safety rules. A single member of Congress, at the behest of some special interest or campaign contributor, could block science-based lead standards for children's products, crib safety rules, anti-choking guidelines or any number of protections that provide a safer consumer marketplace.
Another bill, called the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), would put the calculations of accountants ahead of the warnings and findings of safety experts and scientists in determining the value of new public health and safety rules.
This holiday season please take a few moments to let your congressional representatives know that keeping hazardous toys off store shelves is incredibly important. Congress should not undermine critical consumer protections; rather, members should do everything in their power to oppose rollbacks and roadblocks to our most basic public health and safety rules.
And keep an eye out for NHPIRG’s 26th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report, coming out on November 22nd. This year's toy survey will include results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals, choking hazards and other threats to child safety. We'll also provide tips to help shoppers avoid dangerous toys so that consumers can enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season.