Fidget spinners, balloons and a doll that collects your child’s data top the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s annual list of dangerous toys.

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, has conducted its annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, which over the last three decades has led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions.

But while toys are, on balance, safer than ever, there are still some stores stocking dangerous or toxic playthings on their shelves this holiday season. This survey aims to help parents and consumers remain vigilant in protecting the well-being of their children shopping for the holidays.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe,” Dev Gowda, toxics advocate with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said in a statement released on Tuesday. “However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for children’s presents.”

Among those common hazards are lead, tech gadgets that can collect a child’s private data, and small parts that present choking hazards.

Despite progress in recent years, due in part to organizations like the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.), some toys still have hazardous potential, depending on the quality and nature of the product and the materials used to make it. In some cases, there are deadly risks.

The 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland survey, released Tuesday, identified 2017’s most dangerous toys in four major categories.


Two fidget spinners from Target, Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass and Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal, distributed by Bulls i Toy LLC, were found to have dangerously high levels of lead, according to the education fund. One spinner tested at 300 times over the legal limit.

On Nov. 10, Target announced plans to remove the two fidget spinner models from its store shelves. However, though the items have been removed from the store website, they so far remain available in the stores themselves, PIRG found.

“Even small amounts of lead in toys can be ingested when transferred from fingers to mouth or from fingers to food,” a national lead expert, Dr. Helen Binns, a pediatrician at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in the statement. “Lead harms the developing brain and is easily ingested through normal hand-to-mouth behaviors. Beware of these two fidget spinners, as they have dangerous amounts of lead.”

Data-collecting toys

As technology evolves, many toys are becoming less like playthings and more like “smart” devices. Never before have data collection and online privacy been of greater concern to parents.

Making the dangerous toy list for this alarming reason is the My Friend Cayla doll, found at Walmart and Kohl’s. The toy has been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a Federal Trade Commission complaint by the Electronic Privacy Information Center because it may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The problem, according to the PIRG, is that the doll records your child’s conversations. These recordings are sent to servers at a company called Genesis, which manufactures the doll, and to another company called Nuance, which makes the voice-recognition software for the product.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires companies that collect and use private information from children under age 13 to notify their parents and get permission. However, according to the complaint, parents who have bought My Friend Cayla have not been appropriately notified of the doll’s surveillance capabilities.


According to the new survey, almost all of the balloon packages inspected in stores included the required warning label, with language warning that children under 8 can choke on balloons.

However, several of those same balloon packages were also marketed to children under 8 and included a second label indicating that the product is for children ages 3 and older and that balloons are not for children under 3.

Wait, did you get all that? The organization’s concern is that this wording is confusing for shoppers.

Small parts

Despite a federal ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of 3, several toys marketed to young children were found to contain small parts with no warning or age label on the packaging. These included a Peg Game, Golf and Football, distributed by Travel Games. These games were found at Dollar Tree stores.

Fidget Spinners also make another appearance in this category. The W.A.T.C.H. 2017 10 Worst Toys List cautions against Hand Fidgetz Spinners manufactured by Kipp Brothers and distributed at Walmart. The item presents a potential small-part hazard. The packaging has a removable sticker with a warning stating that the product is a novelty gift item and is not intended to be used as a toy. However, the spinner can be found in the retail toy aisle and has no age specs.

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