The way Arizona PIRG sees it, Dora the Explorer can be hazardous to children.
No, not the TV cartoon. But some of the toys marketed to parents looking for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or what-you-will gifts for their offspring.
At a press conference Tuesday, Monica Flores of the Public Interest Research Group warned that many toys are just too loud for young, sensitive ears. And exhibit No. 1 was a Dora Tunes Guitar.
Flores said the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says items designed to be next to ears should be no louder than 65 decibels; the standard for prolonged listening at 10 inches is 85 decibels.
Each 10 decibel increase doubles the noise level.
“The Dora the Explorer guitar actually exceeds the more generous of those standards at 93 decibels,” she said.
The guitar was not the only Dora item to come under PIRG scrutiny. Flores also singled out a plastic Dora backpack because it was made with phthalates, a chemical used to make plastics softer. Flores said these “have been linked to adverse developmental and reproductive health effects.”
Federal regulators have already banned the sale of toys with over 1,000 parts per million of some forms of phthalates. The Dora backpack, however, has just 320 ppm.
Flores said federal regulators should at least follow the lead of California voters who approved a measure requiring that products with phthalates contain a warning for buyers.
Other warnings from Tuesday’s press conference fell into more traditional areas.
Kathy Graziano, a trauma surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, detailed how she and other staffers remove small toys from the throats and airways of small children “on a very regular basis.” And she warned that it’s not as simple as ensuring that toys purchased for an infant don’t fit in the mouth.
“These are maybe toys you bought for other kids in your house,” she said, things like Legos. But if they’re on the floor, Graziano said, they’re accessible to youngsters who can crawl.
“They’re just the smallest, yummy looking pieces,” she said. “If they’re laughing or they’re coughing, then they breathe in and it goes down into their airway.”
One simple way to figure out if an item is a choking hazard is to use the cardboard from a roll of toilet paper: If it fits into the tube, it will fit into a child’s throat.
But Legos are not the only problem.
“There are earrings that are shaped like M&Ms in my house,” Graziano said.
“They get sequestered away in the time when there are toddlers,” she said. “And they can come back out when everybody knows the difference between and M&M and an M&M earring.”
Button batteries that fuel everything from remotes to greeting cards with sound also are seen by children as candy.
“When they put them in their mouth, they even get a little tingle,” Graziano explained. Not only do they get stuck “on the way down” but they also can erode a chemical hole.
“Those kids are in the hospital for many months, many surgeries,” she said. “And we’ve even had a death here at this hospital in the last 10 years from that.”
And magnets which are part of toys present a whole different set of problems.
“Kids will sometimes swallow one of those at one time and then swallow another one a few hours later,” Graziano related. “Those parts ... come together and make a hole through the intestine.”
Graziano said her hospital sees this issue regularly, with three in one week at one point.