NYPIRG Targets Phthalate-Laced Toys

NYPIRG's SUNY New Paltz chapter presented group's 25th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report on Nov. 23.
NYPIRG's SUNY New Paltz chapter presented group's 25th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report on Nov. 23.

New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) chapters from the SUNY New Paltz and Purchase College presented the group’s 25th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, which found that unsafe toys are still available for purchase in many American stores.

The group presented its November 2010 toy safety survey findings on Nov. 23 in Student Union 100, right before the beginning of one of the busiest shopping seasons in America.

NYPIRG members like Ilana Wexler, a third-year sociology major with a concentration in human services, hope the report will “call for higher regulation in the toy industry.”

This year’s report emphasized two toxic hazards that were mentioned in the U. S. Congress’ 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that was put into effect this year.

NYPIRG’s annual report revealed the results of laboratory tests conducted by the United States Public Interest Research Group on toys for toxic chemicals, identified toys that posed choking hazards and offered tips to consumers about shopping safely.

The report listed a few toys that contain or are suspected of containing harmful chemicals or pose a threat to a child’s welfare.

According to NYPIRG’s findings, there are still many children’s products, such as the Dora the Explorer backpack, that contain phthalates, toxic chemicals used as plastic softeners that can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested. Some of the chemical’s adverse health effects include early onset puberty in girls and lower sperm count in boys, according to the report.

These issues were addressed in 2008 with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the first overhaul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal agency established during administration of then-president Richard Nixon, according to the report.

The report said the act expanded CPSC’s budget and endowed it with more power to issue recalls of products and hold corporate wrongdoers accountable. Within the last year, CPSC has recalled more than half a million toys for violation of the lead paint standard on children’s products, which was banned in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act according to the report.

“The CSPC is doing a good job under its expanded authority,” said Ryan Long, the project coordinator for the SUNY New Paltz chapter of NYPIRG. “But there is still more work to be done, especially when it comes to eliminating choking hazards and regulating tens of thousands of chemicals that are in toys that our children play with every day.”

NYPIRG has announced the circulation of a petition to the CPSC to expand small parts tests to better protect toddlers from choking.

In 2009, as a result of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a ban was put in place on toys and children products that contained more than 0.1 percent of phthalates. Despite the ban, however, NYPIRG found children’s products that contained concentrations of phthalates up to 30 percent. The report found this to be a concern because children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals that could affect proper development.

NYPIRG presented Trouble in Toyland in hopes of increasing public awareness about toys that have been labeled unsafe for children as well as which local stores have been selling these toys.

“What we are trying to do is come to the point where this [CPSC] is no longer needed for the protection of children,” said Kevin Stump, the project coordinator for the Purchase College chapter of NYPIRG.

Stump and Long found questionable toys in a few stores in Fishkill, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie and White Plains.

Long found the toyset Baby’s First Train-Lokmock Train and Building Blocks in Enchanted Toys, a toy store in New Paltz. Stump found three questionable toys in six stores. One of those toys was Fisher Price’s Let’s Get Building! Construction Play-set, which was found in Toys”R”Us and Target, both located in Poughkeepsie, and Walmart in Fishkill.

NYPIRG’s “Trouble in Toyland” report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children for a quarter of a century, and have led to at least 150 recalls and other regulatory action over the years, said Long.