Toy recalls for excessive lead and other hazards are down this year, but consumer advocates warn that potential dangers to children remain on store shelves.
Several toys with high lead levels or toys that could cause young children to choke were found at major retailers and discount stores in the last few months, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said this week. The consumer safety group analyzed 50 toys for its annual report. Violations were found in fewer than a dozen, including a Captain America toy shield and play jewelry.
PIRG said the Captain America Soft Shield purchased at Toys R Us had 29 times the legal limit of lead. A package of toy jewelry rings from Dollar Tree tested positive for lead twice the legal limit, said the report.
Small parts that could pose a choking risk were found in six toys that the group said did not carry the necessary warning labels for children. PIRG said three toys were too loud and exceeded federal limits on decibels: two Leap Frog phones for toddlers -- the Chat & Count phone and the Lil' Phone Pal -- and the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn remote.
The toy industry disagreed with the report's findings, saying that toys are actually safer than ever before and questioning the testing methods used by PIRG.
"We know that toys are safe," said Joan Lawrence, vice president of standards and regulatory affairs at the Toy Industry Association. "In this country, by law, toys are required to have been tested and certified before they are put on store shelves."
Lawrence said PIRG did not use a testing laboratory accredited by the federal agency that oversees toy safety -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which approves labs for manufacturers to use for required testing on their products. PIRG acknowledged that the testing lab it used was not CPSC-approved, but said it is the same lab it has been using for years.
CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis said commission staff across the country began picking up samples of the toys highlighted by PIRG over the weekend and will test them to see if further action is needed.
Overall toy safety, Davis said, has improved in recent years. Government figures show 31 toy recalls in fiscal year 2013, which ended Sept. 30 -- none involving lead. That's down from 38 recalls in 2012; 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008.
A 2008 law that set stronger standards for children's products, including strict limits on lead, has helped make many products safer for youngsters. The law was passed after a wave of recalls of lead-tainted toys.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect name for the retailer that sold a package of toy jewelry rings that tested positive for lead twice the legal limit.