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Beware of the Toys That Give Little Joy


Launching the holiday season with a note of caution, a consumer group Tuesday warned parents to look for hazards when shopping for toys.

"The first thing to check for are toys with small parts--they can be choking dangers," said Jon Golinger, consumer advocate for CALPIRG (California Public Interest Research Group). He spoke at a news conference at Kaiser Permanente in West Los Angeles, announcing results of the group's ninth annual toy-safety survey.

The report, "Trouble in Toyland," lists 24 dangerous toys found in the group's random survey this fall of toy and other retail stores. At least 11 of the toys violate the Consumer Product Safety Commission's small-parts standard, the report said.

"The good news is the new Child Safety Protection Act laws will tighten the restrictions after Jan. 1, 1995," Golinger said.

"The bad news is there are still toys out that will give children pain instead of pleasure."

From a table full of samples, he demonstrated toys that violate the choke-test standard, including small toy cars, trucks and trains, wooden blocks and a plane with detachable signs--many from China with no indication of the manufacturer.

In many cases the toys from other countries cannot be traced, he said. Many of the dangerous items are the small, inexpensive "stocking stuffers" found on supermarket shelves.

As a test standard for a toy, toy part or ball size, parents should use the size of a child's fist, Golinger said. "Anything smaller is unsafe."

Balloons, when deflated or broken, are also choking hazards, the report said.

Other dangers were found in toys with sharp pieces, including a putty-type Glat Splat, and toys with excessive noise, including a set of Blaster Balls.

"All these toys either failed to meet the standards or meet them but are still dangerous," Golinger said. At least 26 children died in 1993 playing with toys, and an estimated 165,000 were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries, the report said.

Dr. Phil Seifer emphasized that parents should read labels carefully and make sure the toy matches the skills of the child. "We have lots of regulations and consumer organizations, but the bottom line is that parents have to be responsible for their children," the pediatrician said. "The best defense for children is a careful parent."

Among the toys that violate the CPSC's small-parts standard: Large Beads and Laces (manufactured by Media Materials), Easy Grip Pegs and Tactilmat Pegboard (Ideal School Supply), BRIO Farm (BRIO), Jumbo Value Pack Wood Shapes (distributed by Holiday Industries), London Double Decker Bus (distributed by ILC), Jumping Frog (made in Taiwan, manufacturer unknown), and Press & Go Cho Cho Train and Press 'N Go Plane With Signs (both made in China, manufacturer unknown).

Three toys with small partsthat will be banned as of Jan. 1 are Pound a Ball (manufactured by Adica Pongo Inc.), T.C. Timber Jumbo Beads (Habermaass Corp.) and Stack of Nine (Plan Toys).

Toys that do not violate the small-parts standard but are considered to pose choking hazards are older versions of Fisher-Price's Little People, the Super Whistler train set (My Kids Toy Mfg. Co.), Wood Building Blocks Classic Wood Line (Battat Inc.), Baby's 1st Birthday Balloon Pack (Trisar Inc.) and Magic Water Snake, a balloon toy (manufacturer unknown, made in Taiwan).

Toys listed that pose other hazards are Nikelodeon Gak Splat (Mattel, Inc.), Blaster Balls (the Nature Company), older models of Playskool Preschool Radio Control Fire Chief remote-control car (Playskool Inc.) and nail polish--"Shell Gold" and other colors distributed by Sanrio Inc. that contain toluene.

Copies of this year's list of dangerous toys are available by calling CALPIRG at (310) 397-3404.

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