Thirty Years of Safer Toys

For the last 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold at toy retailers, drug stores, and dollar stores.

Caley McGuane

Our reports, which we release each year before the holidays, have led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions.

In addition to our research, we’ve advocated for changes in the law to protect our kids. In 1992, following years of unsuccessful pressure on the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Congress, we decided to launch statewide campaigns to put warning labels on toys with choking hazards.

After our work, Connecticut’s law passed first and the toy manufacturers immediately sued. Then-state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now U.S. Senator) successfully defended the ConnPIRG-backed law. This forced the toy industry to the negotiating table and resulted in the passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act. This established express small-parts warning labels, and subjected small balls to a stricter choking test than other small toy parts, since round objects can more easily block airways.

Going forward, we know we’ve made good progress, but dangers are still present, and parents and regulators must remain vigilant. PIRG will continue to push for progress. From legislation like the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to recent phthalate and magnet bans, 30 years of “Trouble in Toyland” research and reports have made our kids safer.

2015’s report found 22 potentially hazardous toys, including some with choking risks, toxic chemicals, and excessive noise. We are calling on policymakers to protect our families by enforcing existing rules and enacting new regulations to ensure dangerous toys are taken off store shelves.

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