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Feds Fighting to Keep Hazardous Toys Off Shelves for Holiday Season

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Top federal officials are trying to block a flood of dangerous toys from overseas from hitting the U.S. store shelves this holiday season.

Federal customs and consumer protection officials have intercepted more than 2 million units of dangerous toys and children's products so far this year at U.S. ports of entry, they said Thursday.

At a press briefing Thursday, U.S. Customs and Consumer Product Safety Commission officials laid out a display of seized toys that any child could love: princess jewelry, toy cars, dolls and action figures.

But the innocent-looking playthings from overseas manufacturers were blocked from entering the country because they all can be hazardous to the health of a child, investigators said. Some contained dangerously high levels of lead. Others had sharp edges or contained small parts that could choke a small child.

"Together with CPSC, we have intercepted record amounts of unsafe products," Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar said. "We are here to raise consumers' awareness about the very real danger of unsafe products."

Earlier this month in Detroit, authorities intercepted more than 3,000 toy guns from China. Testing revealed all had excessive levels of lead.

At a seizure last week in Jacksonville, Fla., authorities found toy cars also had lead contamination at levels high enough to do long-lasting harm to a child. In total, nearly 24,000 toys, valued at $22,000, were seized for lead violations in the Jacksonville case.

Since 2008, customs officials said, seizures have nearly doubled both in quantity and value for consumer products imported into the U.S. CBP has targeted more than 5,000 high-risk shipments for examination through the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) in Washington on behalf of CPSC, leading to the seizure of thousands of dangerous imported consumer products.

But dangerous toys still kill some American kids. Thirteen kids younger than 15 died in toy-related deaths in 2011, according to the CPSC. That is down from 19 fatalities in 2010 and 17 reported in 2009. The majority of the toy-related fatalities were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. They included children choking on balloons, drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool or being found with tricycles in swimming pools.

The Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Report released by CPSC Thursday estimated 193,200 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries to children younger than 15 occurred in 2011. Many of the incidents were associated with, but not necessarily caused by, a toy.

For children younger than 15, non-motorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries. There are no figures for how many of those toys may have come from overseas, but officials believe that oftentimes, it is cheap and shoddily-made imports that cause the problems.

"Proactive surveillance at the ports, strong toy standards and educational efforts create a safer holiday toy shopping experience for consumers by keeping dangerous products off store shelves," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Ultimately, our goal is to protect our most vulnerable population -- kids -- and keep them safe this holiday season."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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