This Holiday, Make Sure You Don’t Give Kids The Gift Of Exploding Batteries Or Lead Poisoning

Image courtesy of Consumerist

‘Tis the season for millions of American consumers and families to start hitting stores and start helping “Santa” along with some toy distribution efforts. But while folks are out shopping to stuff stockings, consumer advocates warn: stay clear of potentially deadly recalled toys — and know what to do if you end up with any.

In their 31st annual “Trouble In Toyland” report [PDF], the consumer advocates at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group highlight 44 different toys, adding up to more than 35 million total units, that have been recalled since January of last year.

It’s illegal to sell or resell resell products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. US PIRG’s Mike Litt says that brick-and-mortar retailers tend to be pretty good about pulling recalled products off of store shelves and out of stockrooms. However, online retailers are a little more hit-and-miss. Of the 44 recalled toys in this year’s list, US PIRG was able to find and purchase at least 6 from various websites.

So what are some of the top concerns this year?

Battery and charger fire hazards: Overheating isn’t just for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Many of the faulty chargers and electronics fire hazards to come to light in recent years have been related to toys, including this summer’s recall of half a million exploding hoverboards. Just this week, we heard reports of a toy ride-on truck that burst into flames while the couple that bought it was bringing it home in their pickup truck.

One of the recalled toys that US PIRG was still able to purchase online this fall is, indeed, a drone that was recalled due to concerns about the charging cable overheating while plugged in.

Magnets: Remember Buckyballs? The company that makes the strong magnetic toy was the subject of a four-year-long legal process to get them off the shelves and prevent more of them from going into kids’ intestines. A second company bought the assets and tried distributing them under a new name until they, too, were ordered to recall the product. And yet, US PIRG was able to buy some.

But it’s not just tiny candy-sized magnets on their own that pose a problem: it’s magnets in other products, too. For example, an Avengers-branded pencil case that US PIRG bought. The magnets that hold the clasp shut fall out, US PIRG demonstrated, and become easily tangled in other things — and again, therefore edible and liable to cause injury.

Lead: Lead is really, really bad for kids. There’s a reason lead has been taken out of gasoline and out of paint over the past decades: lead poisoning leads to major issues in physical and mental development, especially in kids under 6. So toys, which by definition are things kids handle, should not have excess lead in them.

And yet. At least one toy that was recalled for having high lead levels, back in February, was still on sale online this fall, according to US PIRG.

“We need to protect our youngest consumers from recalled toys,” Litt said at a Tuesday morning press conference in D.C. “We should be able to trust that all the toys we buy are safe,” but since that’s not the case, he encouraged consumers to remember two things.

First: Not all toy recalls are at all well-publicized. Consumers can sign up for e-mail alerts about recalls at www.recalls.gov (and yes, Litt stressed, you do actually need the WWW, even though it’s 2016) in order to stay more informed.

Second: Consumers need to be aware that some recalled toys are still sold online. If you’re looking at a listing and thinking of buying it for a kid in your life, consider popping open another tab first to look it up in the CPSC database at saferproducts.gov to see if it’s under recall.

Also, Litt encouraged parents and caretakers to make sure to use the CPSC database to file complaints about any unsafe toys or toy-related injuries.

As for what to do if a kid in your care receives a recalled toy from someone else as a gift, Litt encouraged parents not to feel bad asking givers for a receipt in order to take or send the toy back to the retailer that sold it. Regardless of whether you can get a receipt, though, Litt encourages you to report it to the CPSC at saferproducts.gov, since selling a recalled toy is illegal and all. And after that, contact the manufacturer to see what you should do next.

The full list of all 44 recalled toys in this year’s report is available in the report and on US PIRG’s website.