Parents told beware of hidden toy hazards
December 2, 2003
FRISCO – With the holiday season in full swing, many shoppers have their eyes peeled for fun and exciting gifts for the youngsters in their lives.
What many shoppers don’t realize is that some toys now sitting on store shelves can be dangerous for children.
“Parents should watch out for anything with little pieces,” said Summit County Preschool director Kristin Radloff. “They should read the labels, read the boxes, check the toy out before they give it to the child; make sure there’s nothing that can break off or is loose.
“Kids can pop things in their mouths and you won’t even see them do it,” she added.
More than 212,000 people sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms in 2002 for toy-related injuries. Thirteen children died from toy-related injuries in 2002.
“Even one toy-related death is too many,” said Ben Davis of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, also known as CoPIRG, “because these deaths are preventable.”
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Radloff’s staff uses a choke-meter to determine whether a toy is small enough to lodge itself in a child’s airway.
“Things that fit in the tube aren’t allowed in rooms with kids 3 and under. Kids that age are still mouthing a lot,” she said.
The annual CoPIRG “Trouble in Toyland” report, available at http://www.toysafety.net, offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of potentially unsafe toys.
The report focused on five categories of toy dangers: choking hazards, dangerously loud toys, strangulation hazards, dangerous projectiles and toys containing toxic chemicals.
Researchers found that manufacturers and retailers continue to sell toys that have small parts but are not labeled with the choke-hazard warning required by law.
“Watch out for small, LEGO-type toys and stuffed animal toys that have anything that can be ripped off like eyes or noses,” Radloff said.
“Balloons are bad, only because, when they pop or deflate, a child can choke on them, and you wouldn’t want to get that in your tummy,” she added.
Just this month, the American Society for Testing and Materials –or, ASTM – set a new acoustics standard for toys to protect children’s hearing.
The new standard says that most toys should not produce a sound louder than 90 decibels when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters.
Close-to-the-ear toys, such as toy cell phones, should not exceed 70 decibels when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters.
CoPIRG researchers found that several toys exceeded 100 decibels when measured at close range. Prolonged exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or higher can result in hearing damage.
Researchers identified several children’s cosmetic sets containing xylene and popular brands of polymer modeling clay containing high concentrations of phthalates.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom, have banned the popular Yo-yo Water Ball because of incidents in which the toy wrapped tightly around children’s necks or caused other injuries to the eyes, face and head.
In September 2003, Consumer Product Safety Commission –or, CPSC – advised parents to supervise use of the toy, cut its cord or throw it away.
“When you get a new toy for children, make sure you’re with them to make sure they don’t figure out something that you missed, because they’re good at that,” Radloff said.
Radloff advised parents to pay attention to product recalls, especially on items like bouncy seats or spinning saucers. She recommended that parents periodically check the CPSC Web site for recall updates.
Radloff also suggested looking for washable toys during holiday shopping, because parents can throw them in the washer to remove germs after a child has been sick.
Davis advised parents to be vigilant shoppers.
“Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before they make a purchase this holiday season,” Davis said. “While most manufacturers comply with the law, parents should not assume that all toys on store shelves are safe or adequately labeled.”