By DAVID M. JOHNSON
BALTIMORE (Nov. 25, 2009) - Figurines small enough to swallow, a knight's helmet with a high concentration of lead and play phones too loud for young ears are all toys on shelves this holiday season.
There is trouble in toyland.
This fall, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group found hazardous toys on store shelves despite the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 designed to speed the recall process for dangerous toys.
On Tuesday, Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, joined Jenny Levin, an advocate for MaryPIRG and Dr. Oscar Taube at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore to talk about hazardous toys and a new tool to help combat them.
"A new interactive tool accessible via smart phone or computer will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common hazards," said Jenny Levin, an advocate for Maryland PIRG. "Now parents can shop safely and avoid purchasing potentially dangerous toys for their kids."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency responsible for toy recalls, has removed more than 5.3 million toys or other children's products from store shelves for choking hazards, in 2009 according to Levin.
Toy safety has come a long way since the days of Sarbanes' youth, he recalled.
"I remember a lot of things that were so tiny they could be choked on," Sarbanes said. "Looking back, it's a wonder that didn't happen."
The holiday season with guests and presents means parents have to be extra vigilant with toddlers said Taube.
"It's a time that families can be distracted, a little less vigilent, but when boxes and toys are opened little things abound," Taube said.
Toxic chemicals in toys made for children under 3 are a problem because kids have a habit of putting everything in their mouth, the participants said.
Baltimore mothers Kate Canada and Elizabeth Ridlington spoke about toy safety while their toddlers played in the background.
"My daughter Lily is 2-and-a-half so she's slowly outgrowing the choking-hazard-under-3 rule but she still puts everything in her mouth," Canada said. "I don't buy any soft plastic toys unless they explicitly state that they're phthalate free...just looking at some of the different chemicals that are in plastics and making sure that we're not exposing her to any extra chemicals that way."
The danger of toys with chemicals in them is there is no way for the average consumer to detect when they are dangerous said Sarbanes.
"That part of the enforcing," Sarbanes said, "parents really have to rely on the government to do its job and toy manufacturers to do the right thing."
To reach the toy information by mobile phone or computer, respectively, use these addresses: http://toysafety.mobi and http://www.toysafety.net.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.