The Most Dangerous Toys of 2012

Dora the Explorer guitars and backpacks, toy food, Power Rangers helmets, and Incredible Hulk hands are among the toys that consumer watchdogs have listed among their most-dangerous toys of 2012.

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While the U.S Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) admits that the toys today are safer than they've ever been before, there are still dangerous and/or toxic toys on store shelves, the group warned in their 27th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report, which they released on Tuesday.

"The main trend that we saw this year was that we didn't find as many toxic toys as we thought we would," Nasima Hossain, a public health advocate with PIRG said during a recent press conference. "We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that's the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys."

Among those hazards: high-powered magnets, such as those sold as Bucky Ball. The sets are aimed at adults, but small kids often find the tiny round magnets irresistible; the government estimates 1,700 emergency-room visits between 2009 and 2011 were caused by the magnets being swallowed by kids age 4 to 12 years old (older kids would use the ball-shaped magnets to mimicking tongue piercings). The magnets can stick together inside the stomach or intestine, causing pinching or perforations.   

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"The rising number of magnet injuries in children and teenagers suggests that the sale of high-powered magnets should be prohibited," Dr. Bryan Rudolph, Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellow at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York and a member of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, said in a statement. "In the meantime, the best defense against high-powered magnet ingestion and a trip to the emergency department is to make sure they are not present where children, live, visit or play."

The report also found toys that are "potentially harmful" to children's ears because they exceed the current noise standards, small parts in or on toys intended for toddlers, and toys with lead or phthalate levels higher than allowed limits.   

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The group took a look at 200 toys purchased at stores like Toys R Us and Target, as well as dollar stores. Here are the top offenders:

  • Dora Backpack, price not available, by Global Design Concepts Inc. (high Phthalate levels)
  • Dora Tunes Guitar, $22.39, by Fisher Price (excessively loud)
  • FunKeys, $9.99, by B. Lively(excessively loud)
  • Snake Eggs, $1, by GreenBrier International Inc. (ingestion hazard)
  • Morphbot, $6, by GreenBrier International Inc (high lead levels)
  • Just Like Home 120-piece Super Play Food sets, $19.99, by Toys R Us (choking hazards)
  • Pullback dragster cars, $4.99, by Z Wind Ups (choking hazards, warning labels too small to read)

"Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, no government agency tests all toys before they hit store shelves. Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards," Hossain said. "The message of today is clear. Parents have to stay vigilant. We cannot and must not accept any weakening of our consumer and public health safeguards because they protect young children, America's littlest consumers."

Also on Tuesday, Boston-based consumer watchdog World Against Toys Causing Harm released their annual "10 Worst Toys" list. (You can find last year's list here.)Their roundup focuses on toys that are aimed at older kids and widely available in big box stores and online: