The stuffed bear on the cover of this year’s Trouble in Toyland report. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Millar with NCPIRG)

An annual toy safety watch group is reminding people about dangerous, recalled toys from this year, some of which are still easy to buy, it said.

As Christmas approaches, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group works to educate consumers. Its annual report breaks down the problems involving recalls, counterfeit toys and the consequences of not heeding warning labels.

In Columbia, Prisma healthcare providers this year have seen a spike in ingestions of button batteries and water beads which went viral on TikTok for recent hospitalizations.

“When submerged into water, they expand about 30 times their size,” Bridgette Watson of Safe Kids Upstate said of the beads. “They’re great for older kids. But, because they’re so small, like a grain of sand, a young child can ingest just one and it can cause life-threatening blockages in their intestinal tract.”

Child-proofing, specifically the removal of general choking hazards, is something that is imperative, especially if you have a child under three, Watson said.

If a toy can fit inside a tube of toilet paper, it’s too small for kids three and under, physician Jeff Holloway of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital of the Midlands said.

At 18 months old, Reese Hamsmith was admitted to a North Carolina hospital last year and died after 47 days. The chemicals from a button-cell battery burned a hole through her esophagus and trachea.

Reese’s Law was passed in Congress in her honor, mandating rigorous testing to ensure the security of toys’ button battery compartments.

Watson’s biggest piece of advice when it comes to toys is to buy directly from the company or manufacturer. Third-party sellers are dangerous and may not be reputable.

The North Carolina PIRG division afterward was able to purchase specific toys that had been recalled, sometimes in multiples.

The group purchased eight toys on its list of 16 that had been recalled, as well as three toys that had been recalled in previous years.

The toys were all bought online from U.S.-based toy shops, ranging from musical toys and stuffed animals, to action figures.

“As a pediatrician, unfortunately, I have cared for many children who have been injured, sometimes seriously, from toys,” Prisma’s Holloway said. “We never want something intended to be fun to turn tragic.”

Outside the hospital, Holloway is a parent himself. After he was reminded of the dangers of recalled toys, he went home and found he had some unsafe toys in his household, he said.

“Just because a toy is for sale, doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Holloway said.

About 200,000 people go to an emergency room each year because of toy-related injuries or illnesses, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“The sad part is, we tend to see the same injuries every year, which is why this type of report and this kind of repetitive nature of advocacy is so important,” Safe Kids Upstate’s Watson said.

“We still have a ways to go to make sure that every toy is safe and there are no toy-related injuries,” Katie Craig, NC PIRG’s state director said. “But, those numbers were definitely promising for us to report that those things are getting better over time, and things like this report have helped shape that over the years.”

A table of recalled toys at a recent NCPIRG event. (Photo courtesy of Katie Craig with NCPIRG)

A TikTok video about a young girl who suffered a water bead injury. (Screenshot from TikTok)

NCPIRG’s Katie Craig explains the recalled toys from this past year. (Video courtesy of NCPIRG)


Sammy Sobich

Sammy Sobich

Sobich is a senior from Charleston at the University of South Carolina, pursuing a bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in strategic communication. She writes about the modern South, such as the farm-to-table movement, travel, music and events. In her free time, she fishes, boats and photographs the Lowcountry. She maintains a social media presence, writing about Charleston, from the restaurant scene to local brands and artisans.

Reagin von Lehe

Reagin von Lehe

Von Lehe is a journalism major at the University of South Carolina. As an avid film buff, amateur astrologist and fantasy literature enthusiast, she tends to lean towards Arts and Culture writing. Her portfolio ranges from movie reviews to a story about a mother who diagnosed her own child with a rare, lifelong disability. She’s nosey, but finding other people’s business fascinating makes her a strong interviewer and feature writer.