COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A national consumer group Tuesday urged parents to be wary of mislabeled toys that could be harmful to their children and to keep balloons out of the hands of the very young.
At a press conference on dangerous toys, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group cited federal government figures that showed more children died from choking on balloons last year than any other toy-related cause.
Eight children choked to death on balloons in 1995, up from six in 1994.
Meanwhile, all toy-related deaths rose from 18 in 1994 to 21 in 1995, numbers from the Consumer Product Safety Commission show.
“We want parents to be aware that while toys are fun, they are also hazardous,” said Janice Shields, consumer research director for U.S. PIRG and author of the study.
Shields’ report, released about a month before Christmas, urges parents not to buy balloons for children younger than 8 and to use caution with children 8 and older.
People can die from inhaling balloons or choking on them or their parts, the report said.
Many of the problems the study found with toys on the market have to do with labeling. For instance, some toy manufacturers fail to provide any labels on some toys with small parts, on which young children could choke.
Other toys labeled for children under 3 contain banned small parts.
“We did find that most toys are safe, most are correctly labeled,” Shields said. But, she said, there are exceptions.
Her report listed 18 potentially dangerous toys found in stores last month and this month. They include:
* Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Puppy Pal, made by Arco Toys Inc., a subsidiary of Mattel Inc. This battery-run roller coaster toy has small “puppies” that a child can choke on. It is labeled for use by children 3 and older, but could attract smaller children, the report notes.
* Soft ‘N Snug Doll Care Accessories, made by Geoffrey Inc. and sold by Toys R Us. This toy, labeled for use by children 2 and up, contains baby-bottle nipples small enough to be a choke hazard.
* Pentech International’s NBA Squirt Balls, party favors shaped like basketballs and measuring less than 2 inches in diameter. The toy is labeled for use by children 4 and older, but does not include a government-required label stating that it is a choke hazard to small children, the study states.
Spokesmen for Arco Toys and Geoffrey Inc. could not be reached Tuesday.
John Linster, president of the Edison, N.J.-based company that makes the NBA Squirt Balls, said Pentech has contacted an independent consumer testing service to see if it needs to change the toy’s labeling. “We look at any products intended for children very carefully,” he said.
Seven state PIRGs and the Washington-based U.S. PIRG performed the survey, Shields said.