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Consumer Group Calls for Toy Boycott

Dec 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A study by the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) has concluded that a variety of toys—Silly Fish Squirters, Squirt Devils, Littlest Pet Shop, Red Plastic Super Car, to name a few—are dangerous and contain toxins or small parts that can cause choking and suffocation hazards to children, the Mercury News is reporting.  Last month, CalPIRG collaborated with San Jose Congress members Zoe Lofgren and Mike Honda at a childcare resource center to discuss CalPIRG's 23rd annual Survey of Toy Safety, which found an array of toys containing unsafe lead paint and toxic phthalates levels and small warning labels or small parts, said Mercury News.

The group noted that toy-related injuries in 2007 resulted in over 80,000 children being treated in emergency rooms nationwide and, now, a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruling last month is allowing toymakers to sell their dangerous inventory before the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act takes effect February 2009.

"They're saying the inventory is more important than children's safety," Honda said, quoted Mercury News, adding that Honda and Lofgren noted that lobbyists and the Bush Administration led the decision, which Honda called "out of line."  Honda said, "It would be my recommendation to boycott these companies," reported Mercury News, which pointed out that the government does not systematically test toys, so consumer advocacy groups pick up the slack, which often prompts recalls.

Squirt Devil toys were found to contain unsafe levels of toxic phthalates.  In earlier reports, U.S. PIRG has noted that a variety of experts documented phthalate exposure in utero and children to cause “reproductive defects, premature delivery, early … puberty, and lower sperm counts.”  Phthalates are added to plastic to make it more flexible.  Hot Rimz were found to contain lead levels that would be banned as of February, but have been allowed to slip through this holiday season.  

In children and fetuses lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and other health problems.  Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system.  Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune.  Lead poisoning is difficult to recognize because it manifests with subtle symptoms and there are no definitive indicators that point to contamination.  When faced with peculiar symptoms that do not match any one particular disease, lead poisoning should be considered.

Both toys were easily purchased at a Dollar Tree store as were over 30 other dangerous products, said Mercury News which also reported that when the group discussed the sale of the toxic toys with the store manager, her response was that her superiors did not allow her to remove the dangerous toys without a formal recall.

Littlest Pet Shop, made by Hasbro is available at Toys R Us and contains small parts unsuitable for young children. Silly Fish Squirters, made by Toysmith; Pony Land Scented Pony Pet, made by JA-RU Inc. and sold at some Dollar Tree stores; Squirt Devil, sold at some Dollar Tree stores; Red Plastic Super Car, made by Four Seasons General Merchandise; and Halloween Skull Earring, made by Fashion Earrings all contain either unsafe lead or phthalate levels as defined by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and researched by PRIG, said Mercury News.

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