Keeping Dangerous Toys Out Of The Stocking

By Sarah Birnbaum

The Lokmock/Baby's first train was flagged by PIRG as a potential choking hazard.

A consumer watchdog group has put together a list of toys to avoid just in time for holiday shopping.  

The Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, released its latest report on unsafe toys of the 2010 season. 

Thanks to tougher federal safeguards and new limits on lead content, deaths from dangerous toys are declining. But Micaela Preskill of watchdog group Mass PIRG says that parents still need to watch out.

Preskill said that many toys still contain toxic chemicals and pose choking hazards.   To illustrate her point, she picked up a harmless looking toy called “Baby’s first train set” sold on

“We have a wooden train set with small pieces that are little wood pegs.  And these wood pegs don’t violate our choking small parts standards, but a Washington, D.C. parent notified us of this toy after she had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her son to stop him from choking on this piece,” Preskill said.

That wooden train is on U.S. PIRG's list of dangerous toys, which was released today.  Also on the list is a plastic tiara sold in K-mart, which barely meets safe lead standards; and a Dora the Explorer backpack from Claire’s, which contains high levels of pthalene – a toxic chemical found in vinyls that has been linked to developmental problems in children.

Lois Lee, an ER doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital, recommends a couple of steps for keeping the family safe.  First, she says, when choosing a gift for an older child, keep in mind any potential risks to younger siblings.

“I recently took care of a 9-month-old son that the father was concerned may have choked on a Lego, because he saw the 9-month-old crawling towards a pile of Legos that he saw his 4-year-old son playing with earlier that day," Lee saud. "So it’s more than just worrying about the child for whom the toy is but also about the other children in the home.”

Also, Dr. Lee says, read warning labels on toy packaging, ask the toy store owner for any additional information, and use common sense.   For more tips and for the full report on hazardous toys, go to

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