From left: Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Berkshire Community College (BCC) MASSPIRG chapter chair Edward Laird, and BCC nursing program director Dr. Tochi Ubani at a recent press conference at BCC debuting MASSPIRG's 2016 'Trouble in Toyland' report.

News Brief: MASSPIRG ‘Trouble in Toyland’ report; Great Barrington parking ban; MFHC settles housing discrimination cases

In Massachusetts, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a family to avoid complying with the de-leading requirements.

Survey finds recalled toys in online stores

Pittsfield — Some toys that have been recalled for lead, over-heating, and choking hazards can still be available for sale in online stores, according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) Education Fund’s 31st annual “Trouble in Toyland” report.

The report lists toys recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from January 2015 to October 2016 with the message to consumers that these recalled toys may still be in homes.

Parents and caregivers should test the toys and products they purchase by using a choke test cylinder the size of an empty toilet paper roll. “It is more reliable to test whether a toy poses a choking hazard by using a large test cylinder – like an empty toilet paper roll – If it fits in the tube, it is too small for a child under three,” said MASSPIRG student board representative Edward Laird.

Some of the recalled toys found by MASSPIRG researchers to still be available for sale at online stores include:

  • A toy glockenspiel that was recalled in February 2016 due to high levels of lead in the paint. If the paint is scraped off and ingested, the lead could cause adverse health effects.
  • A remote-controlled flying toy which was recalled in June 2016. The toy’s USB charging cord can overheat, posing a hazard.
  • A pencil case which contains two magnets that hold the case lid closed can detach, posing an ingestion hazard. If these two magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside a child’s intestines and result in serious internal injuries.

The report includes a full list of recalled toys, those found available for sale online as well as specific information including manufacturers’ names and pictures and remedies for what consumers should do if they have the recalled toys in their homes. Under CPSC rules, it is illegal to sell a recalled product. CPSC has been notified about these potentially illegal sales and has been asked to investigate and take appropriate action.

Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards, such as:

  • Subscribing to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies.
  • Shopping with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips.
  • Examining toys carefully for hazards before purchase and checking the CPSC recall database before buying toys online.
  • Reporting unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC.
  • Keeping small parts out of reach and regularly checking that toys appropriate for older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.

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Great Barrington winter parking ban begins

Great Barrington — Police Chief William Walsh and the Great Barrington Police Department announce that they have begun enforcing a winter parking ban, which will restrict overnight parking on town streets.

The ban states the following:

It is unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to park on any street in Great Barrington between the hours of 1 am and 6 am during a winter weather storm.

Please be advised that parked vehicles that block snow plows may be ticketed and towed by the Great Barrington Police Department.

For more information, contact the Great Barrington Police Department at 413-528-0306.

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MFHC settles four cases of housing discrimination against families with children

Springfield — On Nov. 10, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC) settled four claims against landlords and rental agents in western Massachusetts for discrimination against families with children due to the presence of lead paint.

In the four cases filed by MFHC at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the landlords or agents either refused to rent to families because they had children under the age of six or stated that they were unwilling to obtain a lead certificate even if a family with a child under the age of six were to rent the unit. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to discriminate against families with minor children. The law further requires that a landlord must remove all lead paint hazards from any property where a child under the age of six will be residing. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a family to avoid complying with the de-leading requirements.

The four landlords and rental agents charged with familial status discrimination agreed to collectively pay $13,000, de-lead their properties, engage in affirmative advertising, and pay for a public education media campaign on lead paint discrimination. In one of the complaints, against Valley Property Management, MFHC produced evidence that Valley Property Management told trained fair housing testers that the landlord would not be able to get an apartment tested and de-leaded in time for a family with children to move in. Valley Property Management further discouraged families with children from living in certain buildings by suggesting the units would not be appropriate for children. As part of the settlement, Valley Property Management agreed to pay $6,500 to MFHC, as well as to attend a fair housing training and include in all of their advertisements a statement affirming their compliance with the lead paint laws and a link to MFHC’s website for more information.