Columbus -- Consumer advocates have issued their annual warning to holiday shoppers to be cautious when buying toys after finding toxic or dangerous playthings on some store shelves.
The Ohio Public Interest Research Group's latest Trouble in Toyland study (online at www.ohiopirg.org) includes a Dora the Explorer guitar with sound levels high enough to hurt youngsters' hearing, strong magnets that could tear through internal organs if swallowed, play food that could become lodged in a child's throat and robots with high levels of lead.
"We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe," said Tabitha Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio PIRG. "However, until that's the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys."
The group has compiled the report for more than 25 years, often releasing its findings prior to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
The report offers a sampling of dangerous toys in several categories, including:
• Choking Hazards: Ohio PIRG identified dragster cars sold at Toys R Us, a miniature bowling game sold at a dollar store and a set of play food sold at Walmart and other retailers as including parts that could be easily swallowed. Many of the toys did not include proper label warnings.
Balloons and small rubber balls are also on the list.
"We have had to treat too many children with severe and life-altering injuries," said Tracy Mehan, representing the Center for Injury Research and Policy and Nationwide Children's Hospital. "... If the child is lucky, the small toy will have been sucked into a lung and we will be able to remove it in the operating room. If the child is unlucky and the small toy completely blocks off the upper airway for even a few minutes, brain damage or death will likely result."
• Toxic Lead and Chemicals: Ohio PIRG cited a Dora the Explorer backpack and a "Morphobot" sold at Dollar Tree for having elevated levels of lead or Phthalates.
• Magnets: Ohio PIRG is calling for regulations and standards for toy magnets, including a set of "Snake Eggs" sold at Dollar Tree stores. If swallowed, the magnets can tear through organs and cause significant internal damage, Mehan said.
"It's not just young children," she added. "Teens are using these as fake piercings They put them on their tongue, they accidentally swallow them."
• Noise Hazards: Ohio PIRG said a Dora the Explorer guitar sold at Target stores, a CAT "Honk & Rumble Wheel" sold at Toys R Us and a "FunKeys Car Keys" play set tested at decibel levels that could cause hearing damage to youngsters.
Ohio PIRG urges parents to review toy recalls posted online and take advantage of other resources available when selecting toys.
"Choosing toys carefully, following the minimum age recommendations on toy packages and supervising your children this holiday will ensure that playtime is educational, fun and most importantly safe," Mehan said. "Holidays are a time of joy. Please keep safety in mind when choosing toys for your children this holiday season. We want your children home with you, not here with us."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. E-mail him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.