Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has released its 25th annual survey of toy safety, and it has some really great info for parents looking for the safest toys for their kids.

Last week, I wrote a post with tips on how to find safe toys for the holidays.  The report contains similar tips, along with the background data on which toys to avoid and why.  

Their researchers hit a bunch of national chain toy stores and other retailers in September and October 2010 to look at what's on the shelves and find potential dangers. They also looked at recall notices from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to identify trends in toy hazards.

This year, they found that the biggest dangers in stores are the children’s products that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates, as well as toys that may pose a choking hazard to children.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children younger than 3, there are still toys available that pose serious choking hazards. Parents should use extreme caution when buying toys for young children and avoid toys with small parts.
  • Lead and other metals have been severely restricted in toys in the past two years. Still, it is not uncommon to find it used in dangerously high levels in toys. Avoid toys with brightly colored paint or toys made from vinyl that may have high levels of lead.
  • In 2009, many toys and other children’s products containing more than 0.1 percent of phthalates were banned. Still, researchers found many toys that contained high levels of phthalates in stores. Look for toys labeled "phthalate-free." Avoid soft-plastic toys or those made of PVC, which often contain phthalates.
Click here to download the complete U.S. PIRG Trouble in Toyland report.