With box-office hit sequel "Toy Story 2" further focusing everyone's seasonal buzz on children's playthings, what better than a roiling toy controversy to spice up the holidays? Following last week's column on the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's (U.S. PIRG) annual "Trouble in Toyland" report, Pamela Johnston, spokeswoman for the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA), called to take issue with the report's conclusions.

Representing more than 250 toy makers that account for 85 percent of industry sales, the New York-based TMA generally isn't enamored with what it calls the "annual ritual" of "pre-holiday toy-bashing news conferences" by "self-appointed watchdogs." Johnston disputes some specific points as well.

She labels as "misinformation" the Consumer Product Safety Commission's statistics on toy-related deaths and injuries in PIRG's report. "It is important to differentiate between a toy-caused and toy-related accident," she says.

"A toy-related accident means the accident involved a toy. If an adult trips on a toy left on a step and gets hurt, it's a toy-related injury. But that has nothing to do with the toy itself. The toy didn't cause that injury. Toy-caused accident are far, far fewer."

How many fewer? Of the 14 toy-related deaths reported for 1998, 10 were toy-caused deaths, says Johnston, explaining that in four of those fatalities, the toy was not at fault.

TMA also protests that U.S. PIRG's toy-hazard list included several items made of soft PVC containing toxic phthalates--a chemical linked to liver and kidney damage in laboratory test animals. Johnston says PVC-made toys have a long and unblemished record of safe use and there's no scientific evidence small amounts of phthalates are toxic or can damage the health of humans.

And what about the European Union Commission's proposed ban on infant and toddler toys made of PVC? "Shortsighted, politically motivated and scientifically unjustified," according to TMA.

In late October, TMA launched its Toy Safety Hotline and Web site (877-486-9723 and www.toy-tma.org) where consumers can ask safety questions, get tips on safe play, and receive contact information on toy manufacturers.

This Is Dedicated to . . .

Coolest new consumer Web site offering something for nothing? It's the Internet's version of dedicating a song over the radio. Go to www.ededication.com, write an e-mail dedication, then search its 400,000, 30-second tune clips by title, artist or album for that special tune. Preview it, then send it.

Thinking the Caribbean, we searched album titles for "steel drums" and got 38 to choose from. The selection ranges from 180 Jimmy Buffett tunes to 54 Velvet Underground numbers, plus everything from Aretha Franklin to Snoop Dogg.

Got a consumer complaint? Question? Smart consumer tip? E-mail details to oldenburgd@washpost.com or write Don Oldenburg, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, 20071.