Think Toy Safety During The Holiday Season
< Dec. 03, 2008 > --On the shelves of reputable stores, shiny toys that seems perfectly safe are displayed in bright friendly packaging, but looks can be deceiving.
In 2007, a wave of toxic toy recalls caught the attention of parents and toy buyers, obligating them to rethink the safety and reliability of purchased play items.
Even though a new set of consumer laws could make this the safest holiday season in terms of toy safety, experts are urging parents not let their guard down when purchasing gifts.
"A lot of the new standards don't go into effect until next year, but we're hoping the manufacturers and retailers will get ready early," says Liz Hitchcock, a public health advocate for the US Public Interest Research Group and part of the team that puts together the organization's annual toy safety report.
"At the same time," Hitchcock adds, "we don't want parents to think, 'Problem solved, let's go to the store,' thinking everything in the bill has been implemented. Parents need to be vigilant about what's in the toy box."
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008
This summer, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This act requires extensive testing of toys and infant products before they are sold to consumers. The use of lead and other harmful chemicals in toys was banned due to the CPSIA.
The act also called for the development of a comprehensive, publicly accessible consumer complaint database; increased civil penalties that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) can assess against violators; and protection of whistleblowers who report product safety defects.
"We actually feel like this holiday season is going to be one of the safest because of the exposure we've gotten over the past couple of years," says Nychelle Fleming, a spokesperson for the CPSC.
Toy-Related Injuries on the Rise
Based on the Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Calendar Year 2007 report, there were an estimated 232,900 toy-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments throughout the United States. This is a significant increase compared to the estimated 220,500 hospital treated, toy-related injuries in 2006.
According to the CPSC, the number of toy-related deaths has decreased, 18 deaths were reported in 2007 compared to 27 deaths in 2006. From 2005 to 2007, the three main causes of death were airway obstruction or aspiration from small toys, injuries resulting from riding toys, such as tricycles, and non-motorized scooters.
Until recently, there has not been a lot of attention directed toward the danger of riding toys, such as scooters, skates, and other such toys. Due to the growth in their popularity, more children are being injured or killed in accidents involving their riding toys.
Small toys, or toys containing small pieces, such as rubber balls, beads, balloons, and pieces of broken balloons, are well known and highly publicized choking hazards. Parents are urged to review each toy thoroughly for safety. A cardboard tube can be used to test and see whether a piece of a toy could get stuck in their child's throat. "You don't even have to bother buying a tube," Hitchcock says. "Just use a toilet paper tube you've got in your bathroom, anyway."
"If you're going to buy ride-on toys, anything that gives your child more mobility, we want to make sure you also are buying the proper safety equipment," Fleming says. "If you do buy that brand new shiny bike, you should also buy the helmet. You should get the complete package for your child."
Choosing a Safe Toy
Even though CPSC requires toy manufacturers to meet stringent safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children, it is always important to read the label. When shopping for toys, look for labels that contain age recommendations because they can be used as guides.
The CPSC has develop guidelines and safety tips to assist consumers when shopping for toys, based on a child's age.
For children less than 3 years:
For children 3 to 5 years of age:
For children 6 to 12 years of age:
It is also important to examine toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or discarded.
Always consult your physician for more information.
For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this Web site.
Prevention of Toy-Related Injuries
To make sure a toy is appropriate for your young child, check the label. In general, most toys on the market today are safe. But, injuries still occur in spite of tough government regulations and toy makers' efforts to test products. The first step in preventing toy-related injuries is to know what to look for.
Toy makers follow the guidelines established by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in determining the age grading of a toy. The CPSC now requires labeling on toys that are designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6, which can pose a choking hazard for children under age 3. The labels must specifically state that the toy is unsafe for children under age 3 and the reason for the warning.
The age recommendation on a toy reflects the safety of a toy based on four categories. These include:
Families with children of various ages should remember that toys for older children could pose a hazard to younger children.
It is important to check under the furniture and between seat cushions for choking hazards, such as latex balloons, coins, marbles, watch batteries, buttons, or pen and marker caps.
Also, avoid letting children play on bean bag chairs that contain small foam pellets - if the bean bag chair rips, a child can inhale and choke on the pellets.
An arrow, dart, or pellet can be a choking hazard when shot into a child's mouth.
To prevent falling or drowning, it is important to keep riding toys away from stairs, traffic, and bodies of water. Adults should always supervise children playing on a riding toys, and make sure the child fits properly on the toy.
Remember to discard any plastic wrapping the toy came in - plastic wrapping can suffocate a small child to prevent suffocation and strangulation. Infants should not have access to string longer than seven inches - especially from hanging objects in cribs and playpens - as they can strangle an infant.
Strangling may occur if a string, rope, or cord from a toy gets tangled around a child's neck. Long objects can be deadly if your child falls or gets tangled up in them while in a crib. Loose or long parts of clothing, such as dangling hood cords, could also strangle your child when tangled or hooked on playground equipment.
Eye injuries can result from toys that shoot plastic objects or other flying pieces.
Playing with electric plug-in toys or hobby kits may result in serious injuries. Burns and shocks may result from frayed cords, misuse, or prolonged use.
Chemistry sets and other hobby kits may contain toxic substances or materials that can catch fire and cause serious skin and eye injuries, and also can cause explosions or poisoning.
Injuries also can result from snapping or machine-gun noises made by some toys - noise levels that are higher than 100 decibels can damage your child's hearing. Caps are dangerous if used indoors or closer than 12 inches from your child's ear.
Toy chests and other storage containers can cause serious childhood injuries, which can pinch, bruise, or break tiny fingers and hands when a lid closes suddenly. Your child also can suffocate if trapped inside a toy chest.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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