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Smart Toys, Sirens And Slime Make Holiday List Of Gifts To Avoid

Erin Blinn-Curran
Connecticut Children's Medical Center
Dash the Robot, a smart toy with an embedded microphone and Bluetooth capability.

Some brands of slime, sirens and smart toys should be avoided this holiday season according to the 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report. The highly toxic chemical boron is used in six different slime brands. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and reproductive issues, posing a threat to the health of children and adults.

Shawna Upton, a campaign associate with the Connecticut Public Research Interest Group (ConnPIRG), says more regulations and warning labels are needed.

"We're calling on policy makers to require labeling for any toys that have high concentrations of boron as well as just investigate what type of limits should be set," Upton said. "The U.S. currently has no limit on boron in children's products, despite those limits being set by the European Union, Canada and Jordan."

The Trouble in Toyland report also found that the siren of the Bump & Go Action F-182 fighter Jet is louder than the Consumer Product Safety Comission allows for handheld toys, with a level that could cause hearing damage to children. Upton says that parents and consumers usually trust that the toys are safe.

"We think, hey -- if it's on the store shelves, if it's packaged for kids , if it has an age range -- it's gone through all the proper tests and I think that's also what toy manufacturers will say, [that] we've followed the standards, we've done the tests," Upton said, "but I think when you take a closer look there are risks under the surface, choking hazards or things you don't really think about."

Certain smart toys, like Wonder Workshop's Dash the Robot and Cue the Robot, were flagged for their potential to collect data on children who play with them because of the toys' ability to connect to the internet and Bluetooth-enabled phones. The robots don't have cameras or location tracking features but do have internal microphones. 

ConnPIRG also critcizes Amazon for its lack of choking hazard warnings on small toys, toys with small parts and uninflated balloons.

"I think we've come a long way in making sure that toys on the shelf are safe but we still have some work to do," Upton said, "...so that our kids stay safe."


Wonder Workshops reached out to Connecticut Public Radio with a statement on its Dash, Cue and Dot robot toys. In it, the company states while the user does have the ability to transmit an audio file to the robot, "[t]hese audio recordings are stored locally on each robot, and there is no functionality that allows these audio files to be transferred from the robot to another device."

The company says its products are in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. "We never collect, track, or share personally identifiable data about the children using our robots and apps." 

You can view the company's own statement about privacy here.

Ryan Lindsay has been asking questions since she figured how to say her first few words. She eventually figured out that journalism is the profession where you can and should always ask questions.

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