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Discount store toys may be cheap, but may also be deadly

The world is not a bastion of safety. No matter how much effort a caring parent may take to try to be sure their children avoid injury, there is no way to eliminate every potential hazard. And, truth be told, everyone probably would have to admit that at some time or another they've seen a parent who didn't exercise even the smallest level of care on behalf of their children.

Part of the problem might be that as a society we generally take for granted that any products that we see on store shelves have been through some sort of rigorous screening to be sure they are safe. That is not a safe assumption to make. But if it is made the result can be not just serious injury but the tragedy of a death.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission does have a mandate to regulate such things, but there are so many products coming to market on any given day that it's impossible for the agency to meet the demand. And children's toys are no exception. Many of them scoot under the radar and make it to market.

According to a report this week by Bloomberg and picked up by CBS, a number of national-level retailers are significant sources of unsafe toys. Topping the list, based on the number of complaints filed with the CPSC since 2012, is Dollar Tree. Not far behind is Zulily. And what may be rather surprising to some Houston readers is that Target comes in third.

Violations against Dollar Store include children's toys with excessive levels of lead and phthalates. Lead has been found to stunt brain development and is therefore virtually banned from children's products. Phthalates help make plastic toys flexible. The Food and Drug Administration notes concerns that they could also adversely affect reproductive development in humans.

Of perennial concern are the numbers of imported toys that include parts so small that they pose choking hazards to children.

If manufacturers and sellers are responsible for allowing defective and dangerous products onto the market, they should expect to be held accountable. To learn more on this topic, readers are invited to visit our products liability page.

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