This holiday season, we all need to be aware of the toys we buy and make sure they are safe for children. Be sure to read labels and only buy age-appropriate toys. Remember that siblings share toys, and a gift intended for an older child with small parts could pose a safety hazard in the hands of a younger sibling. You can avoid recalled products by checking the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, www.cpsc.gov.
While some risks are obvious, other hidden dangers may be lurking in your child’s toys. (Scroll down for the full “Trouble in Toyland” list of dangerous toys.)
Lead and other Toxic Chemicals
Exposure to lead can affect almost every organ and system in the human body, especially the central nervous system. Lead can cause permanent mental and developmental impairments in young children. While the government has placed limits on lead in toys, not every toy is individually tested.
Choking – on small toy parts, on small balls, on marbles, batteries and on balloons – continues to be the major cause of toy-related deaths and injuries. Between 2001 and 2012, more than 90 children died from choking incidents.
Wheeled Riding Toys
Scooters and other riding toys, such as skateboards, and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times, and they should be sized to fit. Parents should be aware that even small children may be harmed at slow speeds. According to the CPSC, in 2012 four children were found dead in swimming pools with their tricycles, and one child received a fatal head injury after his tricycle toppled over
Magnet toys such as the Buckyball magnets that are the subject of a CPSC court action, are still available and continue to cause accidents. The CPSC staff has estimated that between 2009 and 2011 there were 1,700 emergency room cases nationwide involving the ingestion of high powered magnets. More than 70% of these cases involved children between the ages of 4 and 12.
Research has shown that 33 percent of Americans with hearing loss can attribute it in part to noise. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that one in five U.S. children will have some degree of hearing loss by the time they reach age 12. This may be in part due to many children using toys and other children’s products such as music players that emit loud sounds.The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders advises that prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels will cause gradual hearing loss in any age range.
Trouble in Toyland
The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In the report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. The private consumer safety group visited numerous national toy stores, malls and dollar stores this fall to identify potentially dangerous toys. Their investigation focused on toys that pose a potential toxic, choking, strangulation or noise hazard.
PIRG’s List of Dangerous Toys*
Toys containing small parts
- Princess Wand, made by Greenbrier International, sold at Dollar Store for $1
Toys containing small parts with label violations
- Bead Kit, made by Greenbrier International, sold at Dollar Store for $1
- Littlest Pet Shop – #2744 Horse, made by Hasbro, sold at Kmart for $3.99
- Littlest Pet Shop – Candyswirl Dreams Collection #3313, made by Hasbro, sold at Wal-Mart for $4.49
- Littlest Pet Shop – Sunil Nevla, made by Hasbro, sold at Wal-Mart for $3.99
- Littlest Pet Shop – Candyswirl Dreams Collection #3317, made by Hasbro, sold at Wal-Mart for $4.49
- Littlest Pet Shop – Seal and Dolphins, made by Hasbro, sold at Kmart for $4.49
Small ball-Like toys, toy parts, and rounded food toys posing choking hazards
- Gobble Gobble Guppies, made by Swimways, sold at Kmart for $14.99
- Super Play Food Set, made by Geoffrey, sold at Toys-R-Us for $19.99
Near-small parts that may pose choking hazards
- Fisher-Price Loving Family Outdoor Barbecue, made by Mattel, sold at Kmart for $22.99
Balloons marketed to children under eight years old
- Punch Balloons made by Toy Investments, sold at Toys-R-Us for $.98
Toys and children’s products containing lead and other toxic chemicals
- Captain America Soft Shield, made by Disguise, sold at Toys-R-Us for $8.99
- Set of 10 Rings/Bagues, made by Greenbrier International, sold at Dollar Tree for $1
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pencil Case, made by Innovative Design, sold at Toys-R-Us for $4.99
- Lamaze Take and Tidy Activity Mat, made by TOMY, sold at Babies-R-Us for $39.99
- Monster High Skelita Holloween Costume, made by Rubie’s Costume Co, sold at Toys-R-Us for $29.99
Examples of Potentially hazardous magnet toys
- Sonic Sound Sizzlers Noise Magnets, made by JA-RU, sold at Dollar General for $1
Examples of Potential Noise Hazards
- Chat & Count Smart Phone, made by Leap Frog Enterprises, sold at Babies-R-Us for $17.99
- Lil’ Pal Phone, made by Leap Frog Enterprises, sold at Babies-R-Us for $9.99
- Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Remote, made by Mattel, sold Babies-R-Us for $12.99
*Remember, not all toys are tested and there is no comprehensive list of potentially hazardous toys. Examine toys carefully for potential dangers before you make a purchase.
“Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Calendar Year 2012” by Yongling Tu, Division of Hazard Analysis, Directorate for Epidemiology, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, November 2013.
“‘Trouble in Toyland’ report finds dangerous toys still for sale” by Michelle Castillo, CBS News, November 26, 2013.