Researchers: Dangerous toys still on shelves; keep them away from your children

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The North Carolina Public Interest Research Group has named several toys that they say pose potential health and safety concerns for children. (WTVD)

Are toys on your shopping list for the holiday season? If so, the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (NCPIRG) has named several toys that they say pose potential health and safety concerns for children.

In their 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report, concerns for children range from data collecting toys, which could violate your family's privacy, to choking hazards and lead concerns.

One of the toys the group is concerned with is the My Friend Cayla doll.

Privacy concerns

My Friend Cayla has the ability to, through Bluetooth connection, record responses your child may provide the doll and store the information.

NCPIRG said while answering questions like, "What's your favorite toy?" and "Do you have any pets?" may seem harmless, information like your child's name is also being recorded, and the doll can pick up other conversations that occur in your home.

The group claims this information is uploaded to a website, which has the potential to be hacked into, and because it uses Bluetooth, someone could tap into the connection and collect this information about your child.

"Consumer groups allege the doll has an unsecured Bluetooth connection that does not require a password to connect, meaning that the doll may function as a remote Bluetooth headset, microphone or speaker for any Bluetooth enabled device, this means that a stranger could potentially connect to and access your child's doll," said Kristen Carver, a campus organizer with NCPIRG.

The doll had been banned in countries like Germany, after discovering that strangers could hack into the Bluetooth connection to access information about children.

The NCPRIG alleged that many consumer groups have complained about this toy to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission because of its potential threat to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

My Friend Cayla may not be banned currently in the United States, but NCPIRG said parents need to stay alert in regards to the potential privacy threats the toy poses.

Privacy concerns aren't the only threat; there are also many potential health risks for younger children in the toys that line the shelves of many department stores.

Health risks

Choking, especially on small pieces and balloons, is a leading cause of hospital visits this time of year.

"Balloons are more responsible for choking deaths among children than any other toy or children's product," shared Molly Ashline, another campus organizer with NCPIRG Education Fund.

But it's not only balloons though that can harm children. Games like peg games, football travel games, and plastic foods can wind up in children's mouths and lead to a visit to the emergency room.

Magnets are another danger to children, especially if they swallow more than one.

Since magnets are so small, they can easily wind up in a toddler's mouth, but, if they swallow two magnets, they have the potential to attract in your child's intestines, eroding the lining in the stomach, leading to major surgery.

"Nearly 80 percent of magnets require invasive medical intervention," said Ashline.

If you're unsure if your child could choke on a toy, Ashline also shared you can take an empty toilet paper roll, and if the toy fits through it, it's too small and is a choking hazard.

Lead-based paint is another concern, and while it has been regulated fairly well in the United States, NCPIRG found lead 300 times the legal limit in two fidget spinners sold at Target.

"We found this Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass at Target which has a whopping 33,000 parts per million of lead which is more than 300 times the legal limit for lead," Carver explained.

The brass fidget spinners have since been pulled from Target's shelves and are no longer available online, but the toys were never recalled. If you have them in your home, you need to get them out of the hands of your children.

Ways to keep kids safe

While there are many potential threats when it comes to toys this shopping season, there are several ways you can make sure to keep your kids safe.

If you're in the store looking at a toy and are unsure if it will be safe for your child, simply visit toysafetytips.org to find a list of Consumer Product Safety Commissioner recalled toys and hazardous toys.

Preventing your kids from being hurt doesn't only happen in when you're considering what toys to buy, make sure you also supervise your children when they are playing to avoid any other accidents.

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