MPIRG displays potentially harmful toys

by Mike Wereschagin

Vindicating every mother’s unheeded warnings, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group gave its annual demonstration of the latest toys posing a serious danger to children.
The presentation, led by consumer advocates Russel Langley and Jeffrey Ball at the Delaware Street Southeast MPIRG office, showcased a hodgepodge of potentially painful playthings of which consumers should be wary.
Two University students who work for MPIRG were also involved. Jonathan Grebner, a freshman in political science, explained that the group’s researchers found four toys violating Consumer Products Safety Commission laws.
University sophomore Paul Jorgenson illustrated Grebner’s presentation by demonstrating how the toys could become lodged in a windpipe or wrap around a child’s neck.
In addition to these toys, MPIRG researchers found balloons in the toy sections of several stores, violating Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations that ban balloons from being displayed with other toys.
Grebner said four children choked to death on balloons last year.
Langley also explained the choking hazards of art supplies such as crayons and chalk.
“They’re classified as art supplies and, as such, are exempt from labeling regulations,” Langley said. “But parents still need to be aware of their hazards.”
Ball explained the dangers of polyvinylchlorides and phallates, chemicals added to some plastic toys to soften them.
These chemicals are known to cause liver and kidney damage and might cause cancer, Ball said.
“When a scientist buys these chemicals, he gets a warning about the dangers of handling it,” Ball said. “But parents buying this for their children get no such warning.”
He added that the chemicals are often used in toddlers’ toys, meaning that they are likely to end up in a child’s mouth.
“The European Union banned use of these chemicals in toys made for children under 6 years old,” Ball said. “We want to get a mandate like that passed here.”
Many companies, Ball said, have voluntarily stopped using the toxins. However, many toys still do not indicate whether or not they are treated with the chemical, he added.
Serious gaps still exist in labeling regulations, Ball said. Many products targeting children are hazardous but are not legally required to display warnings.
“Manufacturers should take it upon themselves to be responsible and label dangerous products,” Langley said.

Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3226.