Several local residents learned that buying toys is not always child’s play Tuesday morning, as the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) presented the results of its 20th annual toy safety survey.

The CalPIRG report “Trouble in Toyland” was created to alert parents and consumers about potentially dangerous children’s toys before the holiday shopping season, said Sarah Stein, representative of the UCSB chapter of CalPIRG. CalPIRG presented the report, which focused on the dangers of toys that contain toxic chemicals, pose choking hazards or are excessively loud, at the Bright Start Child Development Center in downtown Santa Barbara at 10 a.m.

“There are many children’s products on store shelves that contain toxic chemicals and choking hazards for children,” Stein said. “Parents have a right to know what their children are playing with.” Although the report does not contain a list of all unsafe toys on the market, it does remind consumers to be cautious when shopping, Stein said – especially when buying presents for children. She said 16 children died and 210,300 were hospitalized as a result of toy-related injuries last year.

“If even one death occurs from a toy, that is too many, because all these deaths are preventable,” Stein said.

Maria Lopez, assistant to Assemblyman Pedro Nava, attended the event to show Nava’s support for the report. She said congressional leadership, the California State Legislature and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal consumer advocacy group, all support the report and want to help publicize it.

“Mr. Nava was approached by CalPIRG to get involved in the report,” Lopez said. “He supports it because it helps the consumers make informed decisions,” Lopez said.

The 2005 survey contains specific information on toys containing toxic chemicals called phthalates, which help soften plastic and have been linked to reproductive defects and other health problems.

CalPIRG tested several toys – including a teething ring for infants – which claimed to be “phthalate-free” on their warning labels. Stein said the study found that six out of the eight products tested contained phthalates. She said this proves that consumers cannot rely solely on manufacturers’ labels to determine how safe products really are.

“If there are products out for children that are unsafe, you can imagine how many other products could be unsafe for every consumer,” Stein said.

“Trouble in Toyland” also includes information about toys that are too loud for children’s ears. According to the report, toys should be no louder than 90 decibels at a 10-inch range, but many toys actually create sound levels higher than 95 decibels.

Stein said UCSB students should take CalPIRG’s findings into account as they shop for holiday gifts. She said she hopes the survey teaches students that many products are not always as harmless as they seem.

“Students are consumers, and should be aware that products are not always safe for consumers,” Stein said.

The full “Trouble in Toyland” report is available at