Toy safety report released with interactive phone application

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YARMOUTH — Parents with small children can hopefully feel a little more safe this holiday season with toy safety regulations tightened and an application for hazardous toys created for mobile phones.

The 24th version of the annual toy safety report, Trouble in Toyland, was released by the United States Public Interest Research Group last week, accompanied by a new feature for mobile phones and computers.

For more than 20 years U.S. PIRG has offered safety guidelines about toys for small children. After a slew of toy recalls, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act last year, which established new protections against toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates – substances that increase the flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity of plastics – in toys.

The overhaul also increased the Consumer Produce Safety Commission’s budget and gave the agency the tools to hold dangerous toy manufacturers accountable. The new legislation also promotes increased recall speed, the banning of toxic lead and phthalates except for trace amounts, and improves import surveillance. Until recently, no government agency tested toys before they were placed on store shelves.

Chris Bell, a former Yarmouth resident and current federal field associate with U.S. PIRG, said he is excited about the recent changes to the CPSC.

“The agency has huge responsibilities, but is limited in their ability to do it all,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction though and will continue to inspect toys and remove the dangerous ones off the shelves.”

As a way to help PIRG and the CPSC identify the hazardous products, Bell said the new interactive phone application and Web site will increase parents’ awareness of common toy hazards. The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report focuses on the three most common hazards, he said, and includes toys that pose choking dangers, are excessively loud, or contain toxic chemicals such as lead and phthalates.

“This phone application is easy by design,” he said. “Consumers can use it while shopping to make sure the product is safe and hazard free.”

In addition to receiving helpful information, parents and other shoppers can report on toys they think may be potentially harmful. Bell said it is important to report dangerous toys to the CPSC, too.

The mobile application has generated good feedback from consumers, Bell said.

“This is a huge step forward,” he said. “It is important to put the tools into the hands of the parents so they can have a part in identifying hazardous products.”

The 2009 report and the phone application are available on the U.S. PIRG Web site.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661ext. 110 or