Despite Improvements, there is still “Trouble in Toyland”

The annual “Trouble in Toyland” report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group shows there are still toxic toys on the shelves, despite improvements.   

PennPIRG program associate Alana Miller says when they started doing the report 26 years ago,   hazardous toys littered the shelves.  Every year, they find fewer and fewer that pose such hazards. 

However, Miller says there are still dangerous toys being sold, including ones  that violate lead limits, toys that pose choking hazards for small children, toys with unacceptable noise levels and toys with high levels of phthalates.  She adds choking on small parts, balls and balloon pieces continues to be the leading cause of children’s deaths from playing with toys.

Miller says any toy that would fit inside an empty toilet paper roll is too small for a child under three.

Miller says they found a little toddler book with lead at levels of 720 parts per million, which is more than twice the current limit.  She adds it’s 10 times the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  She says because many parents wouldn’t even think to check the lead content of a book, that’s why it’s important to have oversight of regulations so kids aren’t getting sick from books. She says parents can find toy incident reports and recall notices at

You can get the full list of problems found during the annual “Trouble in Toyland” survey at You can also use the mobile site, to report unsafe toys or learn more about the report.

School Bus Safety Is Everyone’s Job

This is School Bus Safety week.  In addition to the school bus drivers, officials say students and other drivers play an important role in keeping kids safe going to and from school or school-sponsored activities.

Craig Yetter, community relations coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Safety Administration, says an important part of the safety routine is getting on or off the bus. He says the student should walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus, so that the bus driver can see them.  He says they should be able to see the bus driver.

Yetter says students should make it a practice to arrive at the bus stop about 5 minutes early, so they don’t have to run across the road to catch the bus.  He says they should never run after a bus if it has already left the bus stop.  When waiting for the bus, line up at least five giant steps from the curb or road to keep away from traffic.

Yetter says when the bus is moving, students should stay in their seats, face forward, and never put their heads or arms out the window.  They should speak quietly to avoid distracting the bus driver.

Other drivers need to slow down in school zones and when nearing bus stops, and obey the law to stop when the bus is picking up students or dropping them off. While 799 drivers were convicted last year of failing to stop for a school bus that had its flashing lights on, that was down from 865 the year before. 

Yetter says even if the bus has its flashing lights on and stop arm extended, students still need to watch out for traffic.

PA School Districts

Parents, Kids Reminded About School Bus Safety

Kids will be heading back to school over the next three weeks across Pennsylvania.   Parents are encouraged to have a safety talk with their children, about the right way to get on and off the bus and how to behave while on board.

Allyson Fulton, Child Safety Coordinator for Safe Kids PA, says there’s a 10 foot danger zone around the bus where a bus driver cannot see a child.  She says those areas are directly in front of the bus, directly behind the bus and on the right side towards the back of the bus.  She says children should be out in front where they can make eye contact with the bus driver, and they should stand five giant steps away from the bus. 

Fulton says a school bus is a very safe way for children to travel back and forth to school. Safe Kids PA says getting to and from the bus is more dangerous than riding it. 

Fulton recommends that children arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early so they’re not running to catch the bus.  She says that way, the bus driver will see them standing at their bus stop. She says they should be on the sidewalk or grass so they’re a safe distance away when the bus pulls up.  Children should not try to board the bus until the driver opens the doors and motions them forward.

Fulton says Pennsylvania law requires vehicles to stop when a school bus has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended.  However, she says people violate that law every year, so students are urged to be cautious and always look left, right, then left again to make sure no vehicles are coming.

Fulton says if something falls near the bus when a child is getting on or off, the child should never try to retrieve it. The bus driver should be notified immediately.

In some areas, budget cuts have caused a reduction in school bus service.  Fulton says students who are walking to school need to walk against traffic and use sidewalks. She says bike riders need to ride with traffic, and walk their bikes across intersections.

 Fulton says children under 10 should not cross the street alone. Safe Kids PA recommends using the “walking school bus” if there are a number of children from the same community.  It involves one adult walking in front of the group of children and the other in the back to make sure the group gets to school safely.

Drivers are reminded to allow extra time to get to their destinations as school buses return to the roads.

Prescription Drug Abuse

New Report Finds Gaps in Oversight for U.S. Drug Safety

A new study by the Pew Health Group finds serious gaps in the oversight of U. S. drug safety.  The report says about 40% of finished drugs and 80% of active ingredients and the bulk chemicals in U. S. pharmaceuticals come from overseas.

Allan Couckell, director of medical programs for the Pew Health Group, says the vast majority of what’s on the shelves is not counterfeit or adulterated.  But he says the change in manufacturing toward increased globalization and outsourcing means there are new risks that need to be addressed.

Couckell says in developing countries, where our drugs increasing come from, often the products are made in facilities that have less oversight from their domestic regulators. He says they’re not being inspected by the Food and Drug Administration like a producer in the United States would be inspected.

Couckell says U.S. manufacturing facilities are inspected on a regular basis, but if the same product is coming from India or China, it may be going into the drug store without any inspections. He says that’s true for prescription and over-the-counter products.

Couckell says manufacturers themselves have to guarantee quality by looking outside the walls of their factories and going back up the supply chain.  He says we also need the FDA to be able to adapt to a globalized world.  He says the law that set up the FDA is 70 years old and the world has really changed since then.

He says the FDA and some manufacturers are taking steps already, but for the agency to be able to work with regulators in other countries and do the kind of international oversight that we need, the law needs to be updated. Couckell says we need to update the laws and the system to make sure we’re not at risk.

Motorcoach Enforcement Effort in Pennsylvania Puts Buses, Drivers Out of Service

State Police conducted a seven day enforcement blitz on tour buses last month.   The enforcement effort from May 15th to 21st concentrated on popular travel destinations.  369 motor coaches were inspected at casinos, amusement parks and other spots across the state. As a result, 26 of the vehicles and 16 drivers were placed out of service.

State Police spokesman Jack Lewis says the reasons varied from brakes not in proper alignment to drivers not having proper documents with them. He says there are a wide variety of things that can cause a vehicle or driver to be placed out of service. However, when that happens during a trip, the bus company has to send a replacement bus or replacement driver.

Lewis says motor coach safety has become a high visibility issue after recent crashes in the United States.  He says law enforcement wants to take all the steps it can to make sure bus passengers are safe.

Lewis adds the great majority of motorcoach operators are doing everything they can to make sure their vehicles and drivers are in good shape and properly documented. He says in those cases where there are violations, they want to make sure the message gets to the companies that officials will not accept problems with vehicles or drivers.

 Four State Police troops, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Police departments and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took part the enforcement effort.