With tight budgets and supply chain issues making products scarce, it could be hard for Santa to get your kids the things they want this year — but some knock-off toys could be a deadly choice.

PennPIRG Education Fund’s 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report released on Thursday shows that counterfeit or recalled products are still finding their way under the Christmas tree and offers tips on how to spot the fakes.

“The handful of greedy Grinches who are putting children at risk to put more money in their pockets have hearts two sizes too small,” Emma Horst-Martz, an advocate with the PennPIRG Education Fund, said in a press release. “We need a concerted effort by federal regulators and toy vendors to keep dangerous toys off the market. And, while it’s not fair that gift buyers need to keep an eye out for these counterfeit or recalled items, because of some bad actors, all of us need to do so.”

The original Go PoP! warns of a choking hazard for children under 3 but these knock-off 2 Packs Pop Fidget Sensory Toys do not. Photo courtesy of PennPIRG.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled 13 toys this year that include high levels of lead, potential ingestion by a child, and small parts from easily broken toys. The CPSC estimated that there were 198,000 toy-related injuries treated at emergency rooms in 2020.

PennPIRG, an independent citizen-funded organization, urges consumers to be careful if buying toys from overseas vendors or secondhand vendors in the U.S. who may not have checked to see whether they have been recalled. 

“Fake products sold by unreputable sellers have the potential to be unsafe because they are unlikely to comply with strict product safety laws,” says Ed Desmond, executive vice president of The Toy Association, a not-for-profit trade organization. 

PennPIRG also urges shoppers to be on the lookout for choking hazards, noisy toys that are a risk to children’s hearing, and smart toys that could jeopardize a child’s privacy.

This article was underwritten by Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh. Sign up here for Kidsburgh’s free newsletter filled with local resources and expert advice on raising healthy, thriving kids in southwestern PA.