In its 30th year of tracking down and exposing hazardous toys for children, Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group reports it no longer can find lead in toys, a big sign of progress, and it’s been able to spearhead the recall of 150 dangerous toys by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

However, says Sarah Lukins, Southern Oregon University campus organizer for OSPIRG, there are still plenty of potentially deadly toys on store shelves, from dollar stores to upscale chains, that can choke, poison and harm hearing.

“We should be able to trust that toys in stores are safe, but until that’s the case, shoppers need to watch out for common hazards,” said Lukins in a news conference Tuesday at SOU’s Schneider Child Care Center.

Especially menacing, she said, are small toys that expand when put in water, she said. If swallowed, the same thing happens inside the young body, with potentially lethal results.

Balloons, as always, present the biggest risk and are responsible for more deaths of children under 3, by swallowing or blocking airways, than any other toy, she said. They are also nearly impossible to get off shelves.

Small magnets can be deadly, including Bucky Balls, about the size of BB’s, she said. Anything small or anything that can break off a toy and become small, she adds, should be kept away from children.

Chromium and phthalates are toxic yet continue to be found in many toys, she said. These may harm development of the male reproductive system or cause allergic reactions or cancer.

Lukins demonstrated how all toys should be able to fit through a used toilet paper cardboard holder, to prevent choking.

She singled out the Fun Bubbles jump rope for toxic phthalates, Magic Towels for small balls and many toys labeled safe for children younger than they should be.

Attending the news conference, Ashland city Councilor Carol Voisin said, “This is a problem flying under the radar that is so essential to taking care of our children. I’m shocked at how many of these are on the market. We should put pressure on merchants who sell them and boycott if they don’t listen. This is incredible.”

She invited citizens to ask the council for a resolution on the subject, which would “make it official.”

OSPIRG’s “Trouble in Toyland” report for this year is at Parents can find their list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at