The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) has published its annual list of toys that it claims can harm or kill children.
In its 19th annual survey, nonprofit NYPIRG warns parents to look out for small parts that can become choking hazards, and toys that are loud enough to damage hearing.
An estimated 206,500 people, a third of them under age 5, went to emergency rooms last year for toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Eleven children under 15 died.
To find dangerous toys, NYPIRG sent 17 people, including one in Buffalo, to stores in upstate New York. They identified 85 potentially hazardous toys. A complete list is available at toysafety.net.
"We want parents to be aware of the hidden dangers when purchasing a toy," said Joshua Turner of NYPIRG. "Just because a toy is not on the list does not mean it's safe. And just because a toy is on the list doesn't mean they shouldn't buy it. We're just asking parents to be extremely cautious."
Parents with more than one child should evaluate whether the toy they're buying for an older sibling would hurt a younger child, if it were to fall into their hands, Turner advised.
NYPIRG found problems with toys made by all the major manufacturers such as Mattel, Hasbro, Playskool, Fisher-Price and Lego.
NYPIRG flagged two toys by Fisher-Price in East Aurora: the Baby Playzone Kick & Whirl Carnival, for being too loud, and the plastic action figure Freeman the Falcon Squire, for having a sharp edge.
Fisher-Price faulted NYPIRG's methodology and said neither toy is dangerous. NYPIRG did not use a sound meter on the Kick & Whirl Carnival. The volume was judged by ear against other toys that it had measured. The toy also has a high and low volume setting.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) also released a list of toys found nationwide that pose hazards. Neither Fisher-Price toy flagged by NYPIRG made the national list, but U.S. PIRG did identify a third Fisher-Price toy as being too loud -- Learn Through Music.
Although U.S. PIRG did use a sound meter, Fisher-Price said it used it incorrectly by taking the peak reading instead of the average over a short period of time.
"Product safety, especially toy safety, at this time of the year gets a lot of attention," said Laurie Oravec, Fisher-Price spokeswoman. "If you look at the data on toy safety, toys are among the safest products out there. For these special interest groups to create anxiety without scientific data that's reliable and proven we think is actually counterproductive to raising awareness of the safe use of toys."
U.S. PIRG's reports have led to more than 120 Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls and other enforcement actions. The agency took action on 17 toys identified in the 2003 report. U.S. PIRG has provided the Consumer Product Safety Commission with its 2004 list of dangerous toys.