News Release

Survey Finds Toxic or Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Shopping Tips, Mobile Website Can Help Parents Shop Safe
For Immediate Release


TRENTON, Nov. 22 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to NJPIRG’s 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

This morning NJPIRG held events around the state to release their newest survey of hazardous toys: speakers included Congressman Rush Holt and Commissioner Mary O’Dowd of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in Trenton; Deputy Director Cindy Miller of the Division of Consumer Affairs in Hackensack; Lead Outreach Coordinator Beatriz Oesterheld of the Monmouth County Health Department in Ocean Grove; and Diana Ciurczak of the Weisman Children's Rehabilitation Center in Atlantic City.  The new report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children.  The survey also found toys that pose either choking or noise hazards. 

 “Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still a leading cause of toy-related injury. Between 1990 and 2009 over 200 children have died,” said NJPIRG’s Gideon Weissman.  “While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead,” he explained.

Congressman Holt spoke in Trenton on the importance of keeping toys safe: “For the past 26 years, NJPIRG has helped consumers make educated decisions about the more than 3 billion toys they purchase each year in the United States.  Despite recent strides in Congress to crack down on dangerous toys, today’s report proves that we must do more to keep our children safe, as potentially harmful toys are still available on store shelves across the country.  At a time when too many in Washington are seeking to roll back basic public health and safety rules, I thank NJ PIRG for their important work to ensure the safety of our children.”

 “The annual Trouble in Toyland report reminds consumers to be careful shoppers and examine the labels and the toys they are buying to ensure that they are age appropriate and do not contain harmful substances like lead and phthalates or small parts that pose choking hazards for children under three,” said Commissioner  O’Dowd at the Trenton event.  She continued, “Consumers can also visit website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to check the list of toys that have been recalled.” 

Deputy Director Miller, speaking in Hackensack, said “Toy safety never takes a vacation especially during the holiday season.  To ensure that our children play with safe and suitable toys, investigators from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs conduct unannounced store inspections to make sure that recalled toys are not on display or on shelves for sale to the public.  This vigilance, combined with public knowledge of the importance of toy safety, is the most effective tool to protect our children so that they can have the happiest of holidays.”

For 26 years, the NJPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.  The group also provides an interactive website with tips for safe toy shopping that consumers can access on their smart phones at



Key findings from the report include: 

• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. Two toys contain levels of phthalates – a chemical that poses development hazards for small children -- at 40 and 70 times allowable limits. Several toys violate current allowable lead limits (300ppm). Lead has negative health effects on almost every organ and system in the human body. 

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. 

• We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the hearing standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.



In 2008, Congress placed strict limits on concentrations of lead and phthalates in toys and children articles in a law that also gave greater authority and funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Weissman noted that the CPSC has a new database of both potential hazards and recalled products at

Lead Outreach Coordinator Oesterheld, speaking in Ocean Grove, warned “Parents should remember that lead is toxic and it is still all around us.  At Christmas time especially, we need to be very careful that the toys that we are buying for our children do not contain lead”. 

Ciurczak, at Atlantic City’s Weisman Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Atlantic City, said "it is difficult to make sure that all toys are safe due to the large number of places where toys can be obtained.  We are not dealing with just Mattel or Toys R Us.  Children get toys in food packages, gumball machines, small stores, old hand me downs, thrift stores etc.  Not every company has strict standards in place to protect children. This means that all of us who work with children, as well as parents must know what is safe, what is not safe and how to find out the answers.”

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it doesn’t test all toys on the shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Weissman concluded. “Our new Toy Tips explains the most common toy hazards and our mobile app.” 


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NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. Visit us at and follow us on twitter @njpirg.


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