Heads up, parents! While you’re shopping for your children this holiday season, there are a bevy of toys you’ll probably want to avoid because of potential safety hazards.
Beware of dangerous toys
For 33 years, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund has done an annual survey of toy safety to coincide with Christmas shopping season.
This year’s list includes the usual choking hazard suspects (toys with balloons, magnets or small parts) alongside some unlikely violators like toxic slime products and more.
“This year’s investigation uncovered slime products with toxic levels of boron, and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards,” U.S. PIRG notes. “We also found a toy that could cause hearing damage and highlighted smart toys that have cyber-security issues.”
Here’s a look at some of the offenders:
Several slime products were found to contain elevated levels of boron, a chemical used in pesticides and detergents which can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and possibly impact reproductive health for children down the road.
Amazon and Walmart both sold slime that had potentially dangerous levels of this chemical.
To put these numbers in context, the Kangaroos Original Super Cool Slime has more than 15 times the limit of boron allowed in slime in the European Union.
Unlabeled choking hazards
Both Amazon and Walmart also sold toys geared to kids 6 and under that posed an undisclosed choking hazard.
For example, children play with this Hatchimals Fabula Forest by “hatching” the creature out of the egg-shell. But according to U.S. PIRG, the pieces of the hatched shell meet the legal definition of “small parts” — a fact that is not disclosed on Walmart.com.
U.S. PIRG noted a similar lack of disclosure about choking hazard with Amazon’s sale of L.O.L. Surprise! — a series of collectible dolls with mix and match accessories.
Undisclosed hearing threats
U.S. PIRG researchers singled out the Haktoys ATS Battery Operated Bump & Go Action F-182 Fighter Jet 8-inch Plane because it “produced continuous sound in excess of 85 decibels in repeated tests.”
The toy plane is manufactured by Haktoys and sold on Amazon, among other places.
Using protocols established by the Mozilla Foundation, U.S. PIRG highlighted two Internet-connected toys in particular that failed to meet minimum security and privacy standards.
The first is Dash, a cute toy robot that has Bluetooth, a microphone and “various features that allow children to actively engage with the toy.”
Mozilla noted the toy robot can share info that a child reveals — such as name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities — with third parties.
Similarly, Amazon’s popular children’s tablet the Fire HD Kids Edition was also flagged for having the ability to “share a child’s private information with third parties for advertising purposes.”
Perhaps more importantly, U.S. PIRG notes that the tablet “does not delete the data it stores on you.”
You can read more about the cyber-security threats that parents need to be aware of from today’s new breed of connected toys.
Statement from Wonder Workshop:
All of Wonder Workshop’s robots and associated apps have always been compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). We never collect, track, or share personally identifiable data about the children using our robots and apps.
Due to technical limitations, it is not even possible for the robots to violate privacy laws. The robots cannot listen in or to the user. It is not technically possible. The robot's microphones are only capable of determining that they hear a voice-like sound; that is how the robot recognizes which direction to turn towards.
There's no facility for recording audio via the robot. Although a 5-sec audio clip can be recorded with the app and then transferred to the robot, the 5-sec audio clip is not stored anywhere and is immediately deleted after it’s played, with no mechanism for retrieving that audio digitally either via Bluetooth or any other mechanism.