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There's a new holiday toy list this season that keeps getting longer every year — thousands of cheap, imported and deadly toys, largely made in China — that are dangerous and a risk to our children.

The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) recently released its annual report, Trouble in Toyland, and shows a troubling list of problems ranging from chemically soaked "toys" to loud noises that can cause serious injuries. As a parent, I appreciate the fear of bringing what you think is a safe toy into your home and later finding out it is dangerous.

The annual WISPIRG toy report has led to more than 150 recalls so far and educated countless parents and policy makers on these often-unseen risks to our children. It's also worth noting that most toy related injuries happen to children 2 years old or younger.

Watch out for Captain America

Lead is still the biggest hazard in any toy. Lead exposure can affect almost any organ in the body as well as the central nervous system. Children are especially vulnerable to lead because high enough exposure levels can cause permanent mental and developmental problems.

Even the experts can't agree on what constitutes a "safe" level of lead exposure. The current federal government standard is 100 parts per million. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a much lower lead limit of 40 PPM.

The WISPIRG report found two toys that violate the Consumer Product Safety Commission's federal government standard of 100 PPM. One is the Captain America Soft Shield, for ages 2 and older, which was found to have a lead level nearly 73 times the American Academy of Pediatrics Standard.


Phthalates, I suspect, looks like a typo to most of us, but it's actually an industry additive to toys that makes plastic more flexible and last longer.

Along with other chemicals like antimony, arsenic and cadmium, phthalates are being phased out of toy production worldwide, but parents need to know the chemicals are still being used. WISPRG found that the Ninja Turtles Pencil Case contained 150 times the federal standard for safe exposure to the plastic compounds.

Noisy Toys

A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows 20 percent of our children will have some hearing loss by the time they are 12 years old. Since a majority of teenagers and adults seem to have a cell phone glued to their ears these days, it's not surprising young children are emulating their older role models with toys.

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WISPIRG found one toy, The Chat and Count Smart Phone, that gives off 85 decibels of noise, exceeding the suggested safety limit of 65. Experts say exposure to 85 decibels is loud enough to cause gradual hearing loss at any age range.

Bottom Line

Common sense is often our best defense in almost any aspect of life. If a toy just doesn't look right or feel safe it probably isn't. It's also important to know the federal government doesn't have the manpower or the budget to inspect every toy you see in a store.

In the end it's up to us to make the smart decisions. Forewarned is forearmed.

You can find the entire report, Trouble In Toyland, online at:

Christopher Stombaugh is president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice.