Parents beware: Toy safety for the holidays

Christmas shoppers beware: Certain toys may be dangerous or even
fatal to a child.
Christmas shoppers beware: Certain toys may be dangerous or even fatal to a child.

With the Christmas shopping season here, consumer groups are warning that some seemingly harmless toys can cause a child to choke.

In 2001, 248,000 people were brought to emergency rooms because of toy-related injuries, according to the 17th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report released by the California Public Interest Research Group.

“It’s obviously a number we think is needlessly high,” said Jennette Gayer, consumer associate for CALPIRG. “Children needlessly choke to death on toys, and toys that pose hazards to children can still be found on store shelves.”

Choking remains the leading cause of death for children playing with toys, Gayer said. The greatest choking danger comes from small balls, balloons and toys with small parts that can become lodged in children’s throats.

“Balloons are a huge hazards for kids and are not for kids under 8,” Gayer said. “What happens is the balloons pop and children can choke on the pieces.”

At least 201 children died from 1990 to 2000 from playing with toys, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 2000, 17 children died from playing with toys, including six from choking.

To help protect young children from choking on toys, CALPIRG recommends parents test small toys and toy parts with a testing tube available at many toy stores or a cardboard toilet paper tube. If a toy or any part can fit in the tube a child could choke on it.

The organization has a Web site that lists toys that are potentially hazardous at www.toysafety.net. Some of the dangerous toys are building block kits, balloons and projectile toys

“There is no guarantee that toys not on the list we put together are safe,” Gayer said. “But any toys found on the list are not. We urge parents to be aware of how a child plays with toys.”

The CALPIRG report also focuses on the hazards from toxic chemicals in children’s toys such as nail polish, teething toys and some plastic books.

Many soft plastic toys contain chemicals called phthalates that are probably human carcinogens and are known to cause chronic health effects.

Also, with many modern toys making noises, some are too loud, said CALPIRG that warns that toys with sounds of 85 decibels or above can significantly effect a child’s hearing.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission makes recalls on toys that are dangerous to children. A list is available at www.cpsc.gov.

The list includes Gearbox pedal cars that have high levels of lead in the paint, air-powered rockets with foam tips that can break off to reveal sharp edges and stuffed polyester pool animals whose seams can break exposing stuffing and foam beads that can be choked on.

The toy industry association said in a statement that, “Toy safety is the top priority for the toy industry and is addressed on a daily basis throughout the year.”

In tips for toy safety CALPIRG, recommends that parents should never give young children small balls or balloons because of choking hazards. Broken balloons can completely block a child’s airway. Parents should not buy small toys or toys with small parts for young children to prevent choking.

To avoid strangulation hazards parents should keep mobiles out of the reach of children in cribs, keep cords out of children’s reach and check the ends of pull toys.

Since a child’s hearing is more sensitive than adults, if a toy seems loud to a parent it is probably too loud for a child. Also, parents should take the batteries out of toys or cover speakers with tape of toys that seem to loud.

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