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Trouble in Toyland: Warnings about knock-offs, toxic parts, second-hand toys

Finding the perfect gift may be even more difficult this year due to supply chain problems. Here's how you can safely buy without any dangers.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Finding the perfect gift may be even more difficult this year thanks to supply chain issues.

Parents might resort to buying toys second-hand or buying from companies they typically would not.

But the product safety group behind the Trouble in Toyland report warns parents that doing so can be dangerous.

In October 2020, 52 percent of toy and game brands reported a spike in counterfeit items sold online. Toxic materials are the most common concern.

Dangerous metals including lead, cadmium and barium are sometimes used with blocks, figurines and jewelry that are either yellow, red or black. Those can affect brain development and cause nervous system issues.

Here’s how to spot a counterfeit:

  • Watch for misspellings in the product description and low-quality pictures.
  • If you buy from a website that acts as a middleman between the seller and buyer -- do your research on the seller.
  • Click on their information to see what other items they sell, where their business is located and the feedback they get.
  • Price can also tell a lot about the product. If a toy seems significantly less expensive than similar items, it could be a fake.
  • Don’t be fooled by 5-stars. Sellers sometimes buy reviews.
  • If one sounds too good to be true, again, it probably is.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group also recommends you do your research if you’re buying items second-hand.

  • Start by making sure the toy has not been recalled.
  • Ask the seller for the model number and check it through SaferProducts.gov.

Also, ask when the toy was made. Standards have changed a lot since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Toys made before August 2011 could have a higher level of toxic chemicals.