10News Investigates Unsafe Toys

Gloria and Max Smith have a game plan -- they are worried about giving a gift to their grandchild.

"I don't want to be the one to deliver an unsafe toy," said Gloria Smith.

That is why the 10News I-Team went undercover into 40 stores across San Diego County.

The I-Team armed several undercover shoppers with Consumer Product Safety Commission recall lists, pictures of the products and identification codes marked on the toys.

"When we went to Burlington Coat Factory, we found Queen Mami, Diego and the Boots character," said undercover shopper Autumn Doermann.

Burlington Coat Factory, Toys "R" Us, Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl's, KB Toys and Ross were some of the retailers the I-Team checked.

No matter the store, it was a challenge to figure out what was considered safe and what was not.

"What I found was a lot of confusing information," undercover shopper Amanda Venegas said.

It seems like there is a new recall announced every day, so undercover shoppers were told to look for the 100 most popular recalled toys.

Shoppers found a wood Red James Engine from Thomas and Friends on store shelves. The recalled toy has unsafe lead levels.

The exact same product is on local shelves; at least it appeared to be.

The I-Team tested the toy and found no lead, but it looks like the same engine toy on the recall list.

The only way to tell the difference was to use a magnifying glass to find a tiny product code.

The Laugh and Learn Bunny toys were labeled as choking hazards, with a product code on the CPSC list saying it is recalled.

However, it also said the same bunny with a flat nose was OK. It has the pom pom nose, but it was also labeled a choking hazard.

Undercover shoppers found toys from Dora's Magic Castle for sale. According to the CPSC, the code on this toy said it was recalled.

However, consumers would have to know the day the toy is manufactured. The recall period was between April 2007 and July 2007.

The I-Team asked the Environmental Health Coalition to test some of the recalled toys the undercover shoppers purchased.

The surfaces of the toys were checked using home lead test kits called Lead Check. Using the kit, little or no lead was found.

But using a more sophisticated tester that detects lead on the outside and the inside, lead amounts exceeding recommended safety limits were found.

Products like Mega blocks, rubber ducks, children's jewelry, plastic toss rings and mouth-sized farm animals contained lead.

It appeared the problem had been around even before the holiday season.

San Diego attorney John Stoia said something has to be done.

"The recall campaign by Mattel and Fisher-Price is inadequate," said Stoia.

He has filed a lawsuit against the toymakers that said they made it difficult for customers by asking them to go online, print out a form and mail back the toy, all at the consumers' expense.

The suit also said Stoia's clients relied on the manufacturers' skill to deliver safe toys.

"They did not place adequate controls and procedures. They were not in place to ensure that they were adequately monitoring how they were being built," said Stoia.

"I definitely need the assurance when I purchase a toy that it be safe for my grandchildren," said concerned grandmother Elaine Fitzgerald.

When the toy is not safe, Fitzgerald said it is good to receive a heads up.

She bought the popular Aqua Dots toy at Costco for her 5-year-old granddaughter Ashlyn.

Because Costco tracks customer purchases, when the item was recalled, Fitzgerald was notified.

"There was a message from Costco saying I had bought an item and please return it," said Fitzgerald.

It is too late for this year, but Congress is getting into the act, too. They want the CPSC to step up oversight.

Congresswoman Susan Davis said, "What Congress is trying to do is the Safe Consumer Product Safety Act. It will be more funding, more resources for our consumer protection agencies to be able to do this work."

Maybe next year, gift-givers like the Smiths won't have to be so vigilant.

When it comes to home lead testing kits, the CPSC tested the testers and said half of them failed because they provided false results.

However, Consumer Reports tested five kits and said the Lead Check kit -- which the I-Team used -- was reliable when used correctly.

If you are worried that your child might have been poisoned by lead, ask your doctor for a blood test to check lead levels.

Sign up for consumer Product Safety Commission recall reports at cpsc.gov

If you have toys on the recall list send them back to the manufacturer.

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