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Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Plenty of trouble in Toyland: PIRG report

AFP , WASHINGTON

With a table of dangerous toys in the foreground, Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen, right, and Public Interest Research Group consumer program director Ed Mierzwinski conclude a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday for the 22nd annual toy safety survey.

PHOTO: AP

US store shelves are still stacked with dangerous toys, a consumer group warned in a study published on Tuesday, despite a spate of recent scares that prompted mass recalls of items made in China.

Inspectors from the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) "still found trouble in toyland on store shelves this fall," the group's Consumer Program director Ed Mierzwinski said in a statement presenting its annual toy safety survey.

The group found dozens of examples of toys and jewelry with high levels of lead and other poisonous chemicals, dangerously strong magnets and parts small enough to choke a child if they were swallowed.

Almost 73,000 children under the age of five went to emergency rooms, and 20 children died, due to toy-related injuries in 2005, it said, citing data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Another group, the California-based Center for Environmental Health, last week reported finding various children's products with illegally high levels of lead, including children's backpacks, rain ponchos and vinyl lunchboxes.

It said nine of 100 toys bought from various stores had high lead levels. The nine products were all made in China, the world's top toy exporter.

A spate of overseas safety recalls this year targeted Chinese-made products ranging from seafood to car tyres, with toys in the spotlight in recent months.

The warnings ahead of the Christmas shopping season have stoked calls for stronger oversight by the CPSC.

However, acting CPSC chairwoman Nancy Nord has defended the agency's efforts, saying it has recalled tens of millions of products this year.

Mierzwinski said the CPSC was under-resourced. Congress is considering boosting its budget from US$63 million a year to more than US$100 million and increase punishments for violations.

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