With Holiday Shopping in Full Swing, Gillibrand, NYPIRG, NYC Parents Unveil Annual Toy Safety Report on Dangerous and Toxic Toys on NYC Store Shelves
Senator Gillibrand, NYPIRG Call for New Federal Action to Ban Phthalates in All Children’s Products, Strengthen Efforts to Stop Dangerous Imported Products At Our Nation’s Ports
December 8, 2013
New York, NY – As the holiday shopping season kicks into full swing, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), joined by New York City parents, today unveiled NYPIRG’s annual toy safety report, Treacherous Toys: Dangerous and Toxic Toys on New York’s Store Shelves (www.nypirg.org/treacheroustoys), revealing that dangerous and toxic toys can be found on store shelves right here in New York. NYPIRG’s Treacherous Toys report, which offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for children, shows 14 potentially unsafe types of toys and children’s products that were available in over 35 stores across the state, as recently as this month. Seven toys posed a choking hazard, three toys and children’s products tested positive for toxic substances, and two toys posed an impact hazard. Surveyors also identified toys that pose risks to children’s eyes and magnetic toy hazards.
In an effort to stop these harmful products from reaching city stores and homes, Senator Gillibrand today called for new federal reforms to ban toxic chemicals in all children’s products and to strengthen federal resources to target and halt harmful imported products at all of our nation’s ports.
“Our report aims to make sure that when toy manufacturers kick into high gear to offer the hottest toys for the holiday shopping season, they put children’s safety first,” said NYPIRG Program Coordinator, Megan Ahearn. “While most toys are safe, our researchers indeed found toys on the shelves that pose choking risks and impact hazards, as well as toys and children’s products that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals.”
“Parents deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the toys they buy for their children are safe, not harmful,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This report highlights the urgent need to take steps to prevent these toxic and dangerous toys from ever reaching our store shelves and homes. It’s time for Congress to do more to protect our children from toxic chemicals and stop imported hazardous products in their tracks.”
Key hazards highlighted in the NYPIRG report and identified in toys and children’s products on New York store shelves include:
- Seven toys posed choking hazards. Choking, on small toy parts, small balls, marbles and balloons, continues to be the major cause of toy-related deaths and injuries. Between 2001 and 2012, more than 90 children died from choking incidents. Under the Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission rules, toys intended for children under three are banned if they contain small parts or easily break into pieces that are small parts, and toys intended for children between ages three and six years old that contain small parts, balls, or marbles must include an explicit choke hazard warning.
- Three toys and children’s products found on New York store shelves contained toxic substances. The current federal legal standard limits six kinds of phthalates to 1,000 ppm, and limits the amount of antimony and arsenic, cadmium and other elements that can leach out of toys. Surveyors found toys that contain toxic chemicals, including phthalates, antimony, and cadmium. The Ninja Turtles Pencil Case was found to contain phthalate levels that are 150 times the federal limit for toys, as well as excessive levels (600 ppm) of the toxic metal cadmium. Phthalates are used to soften plastics, but studies have shown they could have negative health effects on children. These chemicals are banned in toys, but they still appear in other products children use, such as the pencil case.
- Two toys pose impact hazards. Pointed, rigid plastic tips and play “blades” create the potential for penetrating impact and puncture wound injuries.
- NYPIRG found one potentially unsafe magnetic toy, which was also a choking hazard. When the small ellipsoid toy magnets are struck together, they vibrate and produce a singing sound, making them appealing to children. CPSC has reported gastroenterological injuries associated with ellipsoid magnets.
“My wife and I take our children's safety very seriously. While we know that this report doesn’t inspect all toys on the shelves, we are thankful that we can look to NYPIRG's Treacherous Toys report to educate ourselves during the holiday shopping season,” said Farouk Abdallah, a parent of two young children and a New York City resident. “We're also glad that we have people like Senator Gillibrand in our corner,” Abdallah added.
To protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals, Senator Gillibrand announced that she will introduce legislation to permanently ban six phthalates in all children’s products. In 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which banned three types of phthalates in toys and temporarily banned three other phthalates. Despite these measures, manufacturers are still allowed to put potentially dangerous levels of phthalates in other products that children use daily, including backpacks and pencil cases. Gillibrand’s bill would go a step further than the current ban to include all products used by children, not just toys, for those ages 12 and younger.
Using an innovative tool known as the Risk Assessment Methodology (RAM) system, the CPSC program has been successful in stopping millions of harmful children’s products in their tracks. In 2012, 3.6 million hazardous products were stopped from entering the U.S. market, which is more than twenty times the number of products identified by CPSC in 2007 at all 327 U.S. ports. Earlier this year, investigators seized a shipment of nearly 28,000 toy baby bottles, which were cited for a small parts violation.
In a letter to the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “As you prepare the FY 2015 budget, I write to urge you to fully fund the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) Import Surveillance System-Risk Assessment Methodology (RAM) system in your FY 2015 Budget Request. This program is currently operating as a pilot funded within the CPSC baseline. The initial results from the use of the RAM system have led to better protections for consumers in the United States and more accurate and efficient screening of imported products… Full support for this program is necessary to ensure the protection of consumers and businesses in the U.S. from harmful products and counterfeit imports.”
NYPIRG’s Report Methodology
The report identified potentially unsafe toys and children’s products throughout New York in November and December 2013. Field study participants found in local stores, toys and children’s products that appeared on two different recently released lists of potentially unsafe toys and children’s products in the following toy and child safety reports:
(1) WORLD AGAINST TOYS CAUSING HARM, INC.'S "10 WORST TOYS" LIST. Released on November 20, 2013. James A. Swartz & Joan E. Siff. www.toysafety.org
(2) United States Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland.” 28th Annual Report Released on November 26, 2013. Jenny Levin. http://www.uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/trouble-toyland-2013
Treacherous Toys also covers toys which have been recalled in the past year that may still pose a risk to consumers and their families who had previously purchased these items. The report includes the following resource: Consumer Product Safety Commission 2013 Toy Recall List, http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/
Full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is below:
Dear Director Mathews:
As you prepare the FY 2015 budget, I write to urge you to fully fund the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Import Surveillance System-Risk Assessment Methodology (RAM) system in your FY 2015 Budget Request. This program is currently operating as a pilot funded within the CPSC baseline. The initial results from the use of the RAM system have led to better protections for consumers in the United States and more accurate and efficient screening of imported products. The CPSC has jurisdiction over imported consumer products entering the United States at 327 U.S. ports. Fully funding this innovative program is critical to the CPSC’s mission to protect the public and support compliant trade. I recognize the difficult budget climate for FY 2015 and appreciate your efforts to protect U.S. consumers from potentially hazardous products and enforce intellectual property laws.
The consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 directed the CPSC to create a RAM to identify products imported into the U.S. that are most likely to violate consumer product safety statues and regulations and, contain defects. The RAM system is designed to integrate existing data collected by CPSC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This process allows shipments containing potentially harmful products to be denied entry into the U.S. preventing these products from entering the marketplace. The goals of the RAM system are to improve import surveillance targeting effectiveness, facilitate legitimate trade, improve working effectiveness with CBP to harness existing federal port resources in the interdiction of noncompliant consumer product imports and, protect U.S. intellectual property consistent with the CPSC’s safety mission.
Since the RAM system was initiated in 2011, it has been expanded to include 15 ports and the results have been very positive. In 2012, 3.6 million potentially hazardous consumer products were stopped from entering the marketplace. This is more than twenty times the number of products identified by CPSC in 2007 at all 327 U.S. ports. The RAM system has also increased the accuracy of CPSC’s inspection efforts. Since the RAM system was introduced, 190% more shipments were detained for inspection and there was a 17% reduction in the amount of compliant cargo held. CPSC directly attributes this increase in productivity to the implementation of the risk-based inspection system.
The RAM approach has improved the accuracy and effectiveness of CPRC’s import interdiction activities and should be expanded to allow full implementation at all 327 U.S. ports. Full support for this program is necessary to ensure the protection of consumers and businesses in the U.S. from harmful products and counterfeit imports.
Therefore, I urge that the Administration prioritize the full amount for the CPSC RAM program in your FY 2015 Budget Request.
 Toy Injury Statistics. CPSC Injury Statistics. http://www.cpsc.gov
 United States Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland.” 28th Annual Report Released on November 26, 2013. Jenny Levin. http://www.uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/trouble-toyland-2013 Accessed December 5, 2013.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 2011. National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/. Accessed on October 19 2011.
 The CPSC staff has noted that “some of” the large ellipsoid magnets fit inside the choke cylinder. The PIRG samples narrowly did not. See “Staff Responses to Questions about the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Hazardous Magnet Sets,” Memo to the Commission, dated 20 August 2012, available at http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia12/brief/nordmagnet.pdf