Questioning the “Trouble In Toyland” Report

Those who choose to monitor toy safety have an obligation to do more than create fear among consumers. 
Indeed, if they are to serve the public, they have an obligation to enlighten consumers as well as those who make and retail toys.  If done with honesty and respect, we can all benefit.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with one of the major dangerous toy lists:  the Illinois PIRG’s 29th annual “Trouble In Toyland” report.   I wanted to see which toys they singled out as dangerous and whether they were representative of the toy industry as a whole.  Here is what I found:

There are 24 toys singled out as dangerous in the report.  Of the 24 toys cited, 8 are from the same company, Greenbrier International; all sold for $1 and all were found at Dollar Tree.  That is fully 1/3 of all toys cited. 

In fact, most of the toys on the list fell into the lowest price range.  I went through their list and noted the retail price points of the toys cited as dangerous (see below).  As you will see, 11 out of the 24 toys listed as dangerous retail for $1 or less.  That is almost 50%.


1 at .49

1 at .97

1 at .99

8 at $1

2 at $2.00

1 at $3.00

1 at $4.99

1 at $5.99

1 at $6.99

1 at $12.65

1 at $13.84

3 at $20.00

1 at $31.00

1 at $34.99

After reviewing these items I have to ask:   Is there "Trouble in Toyland" or is there "Trouble in Cheapest Toys Primarily From One Companyland?  

What do you think?

4 thoughts

  1. We’ve all seen these lists, and from time to time responsible challenges have been mounted to raise the validity of the allegations up for closer scrutiny — ranging from an analysis of the methodology the consumer group uses, the effectiveness and reliability of the equipment used to test these so-called “dangerous toys”, the agenda of the group that purports to being qualified to test the toys, and their motives behind making these allegations.
    In the not-so-distant past I was running a company whose product was cited by one of these concerned citizen groups. Instead of ignoring the report or refuting their claims, I decided I’d work with the group to get to the science behind their critiques and, if possible, to collaborate with them to improve the “questionable’product, which I should mention exceeded all US safety regulations. It’s only fault was that it didn’t meet the standards of this testing group.
    The outcome? The group was happy to condemn our product, but when asked what they thought we might do better, they drew a blank. It seems they’d never considered that a part of their purpose in serving the public good might actually be to help make the product safer by offering actionable suggestions for improvement.
    Instead they came away from the discussion drawing the conclusion that they’d have to increase their efforts to get CPSC regulations changed so that our product was no longer officially deemed safe, and to force it off the market.

  2. This issue is not new to the toy industry. You will always have retailers that are chasing price points and volume and these retailers will always want to buy junk toys. The industry needs to get tough on those retailers that continually bypass toys that are made to a standard. Certainly a massive campaign led by the TIA needs to happen to bring about change.

  3. 1 in 3 unsafe toys from Dollar Tree is criminal, and that company should bear the cost of toy testing for smaller, ethical companies still struggling with the costs created by bad products from big players.
    For an higher correlation, compare the unsafe toys on this list with country of origin. A quick skim of the report you site does not list this important information, but I would wager that China accounts for nearly every violation.

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