Dangerous Toys: How do you really shop safe?

November 25, 2009

Black Friday is nearly upon us, and if you're a parent you're probably trying to figure out what to get your kids. It seems like everyone is releasing a list to help parents:
  • W.A.T.C.H. has already put out its list of ten most dangerous toys for the year.
  • U.S. PIRG has been hyping its "Trouble in Toyland" shopping guide and their "smart phone website", but it sadly doesn't deliver. If you want to read a bunch of boring statistics that will make you paranoid while shopping for toys, then by all means, read "Trouble in Toyland". If you're looking for a guide that's actually helpful and doesn't insult your intelligence, I recommend you look elsewhere than U.S. PIRG's mobile shopping guide.
  • Fortunately for parents, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a safe shopping guide that's actually useful on Monday to make sure that anything you buy for your kids is safe.
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You may have seen the media jump all over U.S. PIRG's press release yesterday when they formally unveiled their mobile shopping guide. Tech-related news seems to grab people's attention, right? Well, if anyone else in the media bothered to try the mobile site, they would have seen its not good for much. It gives useful guidelines for you to use in determining very broad categories of potentially dangerous toys, but a lot of the stuff listed in here is common sense. The biggest problem? It doesn't tell you much about specific toys. After U.S. PIRG's report,‚  "Trouble in Toyland", demonstrated how many toys have lead in them, they failed to make any kind of guide that actually helps parents know which toys to stay away from. Their mobile "app" as their press releases hyping the guide called it, lists only 16 dangerous toys. U.S. PIRG might insinuate that the Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to be improved while they talk on CNN, but at least the CPSC is publishing recalls on their website. Their website might not be as accessible as U.S. PIRG's mobile "app", but at least its useful. As I mentioned earlier, one safe shopping guide that seems to be a cut about the rest is Home Safe Home, a 93-page guide issued by the Illinois Attorney General's office on Monday. This lists all kinds of products(and not just toys) that have been recalled and pose a threat to consumers. According to the press release which unveiled the list of unsafe products, "This list covers everything from small appliances to clothing to SCUBA gear." It's probably not possible to keep track of every dangerous product on the market, and none of these toy lists can possibly be 100% comprehensive. Although some shopping guides may be more useful than others, all of them have some useful information that may not be covered by a different one. Even if you only print out excerpts from one of these guides, you should probably at least take a look at all of them. Your toddler deserves that much.