Toy safety is on the mind of most parents this holiday season, more than any other, as they try to determine which toys are safe following a wave of toxic toy recalls last year.
New consumer laws passed in the aftermath of those recalls could make this the safest holiday seasons yet, in terms of toy safety. Yet, still, experts urge parents not to let their guard down when it comes to picking and choosing this year’s gifts.
"What we don't want is parents thinking the new laws have been put into effect and the problem has been solved. Parents still need to vigilant about the toys in the toy box.”
“Several new standards don’t go into effect until after the new year, but we do hope retailers and manufacturers are getting ready early,” said Liz Hitchcock, a public health advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
Congress passed The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, this summer which requires all toys and infant products to undergo comprehensive testing before they can be sold. The act also bans harmful chemicals including lead in toys.
There were 18 toy-related deaths and 170,000 toy-related injuries that required hospital treatment for children under 15 in 2007. Most deaths were associated with airway obstruction from small toys, drowning or motor vehicle accidents that occurred during play.
The injuries sustained were mostly contusions and abrasions, lacerations and the head and face area were the most frequently injured parts of the body.
Toy Buying Safety Tips
Choking hazards are most commonly associated with small toys, or toys that contain small pieces. Parents are urged to carefully examine toys and use a cardboard tube to help test whether a toy piece is too small and could potentially get lodged in the child’s throat.
No need to buy a special tube, says Hitchcock, just use the tube on the roll of toilet paper that you have right in your bathroom.
As riding toys, including skates, bikes and scooters grow in popularity, so do the number of children that are killed in accidents that involve them.
“If you plan to buy your child a ride-on toy, you should also buy safety equipment as well,” Nychelle Fleming, a CPSC spokeswoman said. “If you buy your child a shiny new bike, you should also buy a helmet and proper safety gear including knee and elbow pads.”
Magnetic pieces are also another common toy hazard. If a small child swallows more than one magnet they can attract one another and the result is an intestinal blockage. There have been reported cases of intestinal perforations resulting from this.
Experts urge parents to pay attention to product labeling on the toys they are buying to ensure they are age-appropriate. You may think that a child who's advanced in comparison to peers can handle toys meant for older kids. But the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.
The packaging the toys come in also poses danger to small children.
“Adults should try and remove packaging materials swiftly,” Fleming said, noting choking hazards such as twist-ties and small plastic pieces. “We don’t want the packaging to turn into a deadly play toy.”
Purchasing older toys from secondhand stores and online vendors is another concern. Be careful you aren’t purchasing a recalled, banned or otherwise unsafe toy under current safety standards. Try to buy American-made toys whenever possible.
You can visit the CPSC Web site at any time to check the recall status of a toy or product. The agency also encourages consumers to seek out information about all types of recalls at Recalls.gov.
General Toy Guidelines
Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant.
Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
Art materials should say “nontoxic.”
Make sure toys aren’t too loud. Some toys when pressed up against the child’s ear can be as loud as a car horn and result in ear damage.
Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the packaging, meaning they have been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Megan Roth, in Des Moines, has an informative and practical article: "Toy Safety: How To Shop Smart," with more helpful toy safety information. InjuryBoard and the internet can also be used to stay informed about health and safety issues.
Lastly and most important, have a happy and safe Holiday Season! #