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PIRG Releases Hazardous Toy Report For Shoppers
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
03:03PM / Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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MassPIRG campus organizer Caroline Webster and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier held a press conference on Tuesday to release a report on hazardous toys.


Webster said this Dora the Explorer backpack contains high levels of a hazardous chemical.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dora the Explorer is trying to poison your children.

Well, not her exactly but rather a backpack featuring her image that is listed in a recent report of toys that consumer advocates say may be hazardous to your child's health.

The Dora the Explorer backpack was found to have high levels of phthalates, a chemical used to soften plastics that has been linked to multiple heath problems in children, according to the 27th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report released by U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG).

"The message today is clear. We need to protect our youngest consumers," Caroline Webster, a campus organizer at both Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts for the state PIRG.

The national study conducted by PIRG researchers pulled toys from stores across the country and identified about 20 that could have detrimental affects on children's health.

The report, as well as the release of a smartphone app, is intended to remind parents of these concerns as well as promote PIRG's avocation for tighter government regulations on toys.

Above: play food toys are considered a choking hazard by PIRG. Right: These play keys make noise that could cause hearing loss. Bottom: The backpack has high levels of toxic chemicals.
For example, PIRG found a set of play food that it considers to be a choking hazard. The toys were able to pass into a small cylinder used to replicate a child's throat. Webster said the cylinder test should be expanded in light of more than 50 choking deaths in 2011.

Webster said parents can use a toilet paper roll to measure the size of a toy to keep their children from choking.

The study aimed to identify three hazards — choking, toxic chemicals and excessive noise. A set of play keys was found to have high decibel levels and could cause hearing loss with prolonged use near the ear.

The report is being released across the country just days before Black Friday. To aid shoppers, the mobile app lists brand names and possible hazards for parents to use right in the store.

Webster was joined by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, who advocated for parents to download and use the app because decibel levels and chemical structure aren't commonly known.

But while the tool will help shoppers, the federal and state government need to set stricter regulations to keep hazardous toys out of the stores, she said.

"We need regulation to help parents, help all consumers, keep their kids safe," Farley-Bouvier said.

Webster said 85 percent of toys are manufactured overseas but they must conform to U.S. regulations. However, some toys are "slipping through the cracks" or passing regulations she and other PIRG members consider too loose.

"There were at least 20 or so different products in this report that tested positive," Webster said, for certain chemicals, noise or as choking hazards.  She added that the study was a "sampling" of toys and not every product was tested by PIRG researchers.
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