Shopping for the perfect toy to light up a child’s face this holiday can be tough—and we don’t mean fighting the holiday crowds. In our quest to make a child happy we also have to make sure that the toys we buy are safe. In today’s toy marketplace, that is becoming increasingly difficult.
However, avoiding these top five safety concerns outlined by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group can go a long way to ensure your gift will not be a health hazard.
1. Choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. Do not buy small toys or toys with small parts for children under age 3. Use the toilet paper tube test. If a toy or part of a toy can pass through it, don’t buy it for a child under age 3. Small balls and balloons or pieces of balloons are a common choking hazard.
2. Magnets used in most magnetic building toys, toy darts, magnetic jewelry, and other toys can fall out of small toys and look like shiny candy. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract each other in the body (in the stomach and intestines) and cause life-threatening complications. If a child swallows even one magnet, seek immediate medical attention.
3. Button batteries, like magnets can also be mistaken for candy and swallowed. The batteries contain acid that can cause fatal internal injuries.
4. Strangulation can occur with toys like infant mobiles and cords or drawstrings on clothing or home furnishings. Keep mobiles out of the reach of children in cribs and remove them before the baby is five months old or can push him/herself up. Remove knobs and beads from cords longer than one foot to prevent the cords from tangling into a dangerous loop.
5. Toxic chemicals can appear in a number of places, from kids cosmetics and jewelry to art supplies and painted toys. Read the labels of play cosmetics and avoid products with xylene, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate. To test jewelry for lead, use a home lead tester available at the hardware store, or simply throw costume jewelry made with such heavy metals away. Avoid toys made of PVC plastic which could contain toxic phthalates posing developmental hazards; choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead.
- Be Careful with Loud Toys - Children's ears are sensitive. If a toy seems too loud for your ears, it is probably too loud for a child. Take the batteries out of loud toys or cover the speakers with tape.
- Include Safety Accessories - Toys such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates are safer when children wear protective gear. If you plan to give any of these toys as gifts, make them safer by also giving a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.
- Get Alerts on Recalls - Check www.recalls.gov for an archive of old recalls and to sign up to receive email alerts of new recalls.
- Report Dangerous Toys - The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the authority to recall dangerous toys and products from the market. If you think a toy or product is hazardous, contact the CPSC and submit a report by: Phone: 1-800-638-2772 or visit their website: Report a dangerous toy at www.saferproducts.gov
U.S. Public Interest Research Group