Report: Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

36th Annual Toy Safety Report
Released by: MASSPIRG Education Fund

Even though legitimate toymakers deserve kudos for making their products much safer over the years, too often, Americans end up buying dangerous toys for children for the holidays. U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report shows that many of those toys are counterfeit or recalled products that still make their way into consumers’ shopping carts.

So far in 2021, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled 13 toys. PIRG Education Fund toy researchers found two additional recalled products — a hoverboard and a children’s watch accessory — that many would consider toys. The recalled toys posed risks including high levels of lead, potential foreign-body ingestion by a child and choking because of small parts from easily broken toys.

These days, toys with safety risks are less likely to be found at traditional retail stores, which stock toys from importers and manufacturers that are required to have a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC). The CPC affirms that the toy follows all applicable federal safety standards for children.

But when shopping on websites that act as the middleman between the customer and the seller, consumers can encounter hidden hazards. The middlemen do not consider themselves to be traditional retailers and therefore often do not follow the same rules that a traditional retailer would. Whereas the retailers must receive a certificate of compliance from a manufacturer before selling a toy, not every toy sold online may be covered by a CPC and the toy described in the website listing might not be the toy that arrives at your door. The toys could even contain toxic chemicals such as heavy metals or phthalates, and most parents don’t have access to labs that could test for harmful substances.

In this edition of Trouble in Toyland, we share our best tips on how to identify potentially unsafe toys sold online and in stores.


The CPSC estimates that emergency rooms treated 198,000 toy-related injuries in 2020. This is a notable decrease from toy-related injuries reported from 2013 to 2019, when injury reports ranged from 224,200 to 251,700 per year. With many Americans staying at home more during 2020, the increased supervision could account for this drop in toy-related injuries. The best way to keep a child safe from injury from a toy is to keep an eye on them, look out for any broken toys and to ensure the toys are age appropriate.

Our 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report calls attention to the biggest toy safety issues, along with tips to minimize the risk in your home.

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