The Union Recorder

December 13, 2013

Be wary of toy dangers

From staff reports
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report released in November.  

The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping for youngsters this holiday season.

“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Jenny Levin, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate.

Researchers visited numerous national toy stores, malls and dollar stores in September, October and November to identify potentially dangerous toys. The investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation or noise hazard.

Key findings from the report include:

• Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. The Captain America Soft Shield for ages 2 and up tests out with 29 times the legal limit of lead;

• Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under 3, the report found toys on sell that still pose choking hazards;

• Some toys are potentially harmful to children’s ears and exceed the noise standards recommended by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that one in five U.S. children would 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;

• Small powerful magnets pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. Dr. Sarah Mack, the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at the Oconee Regional Medical Center, also said swallowing multiple magnets can cause bowel obstruction;

Over the past five years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market.  Improvements made in 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) tightened lead limits, phased out dangerous phthalates, and required independent third party testing.  

However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) toy safety net remain, according to the “Trouble in Toyland” study.

Safe Kids Coordinator for Middle Georgia Nicky Gary said in 2010 over 180,000 kids went to the emergency room for toy related injuries.

“The majority of those injuries were children four and under,” Gary said. “A lot of times we don’t realize that when we buy toys they need to be age appropriate, and we need to look at the fact they have smaller pieces to them which may not be appropriate for younger children.”

“Trouble in Toyland” said choking — on small toy parts, on small balls, on marbles 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.

Gary suggests the cardboard toilet paper roll test.

If a toy easily fits in the cylinder, it may not be appropriate for a younger child.

“You may have a bigger toy that breaks down into a smaller one. You want to make sure you test all the parts,” Gary said.

The hearing damage dangers cited in the report aren’t often discussed.

“I don’t think a lot of parents are aware of the noise level of a toy can really be detrimental to a child’s hearing. Something that may not affect us will affect a child because their ears are very sensitive,” Gary said.

Think about purchasing a helmet with that bike or skateboard Christmas gift this year as well.

Shop with U.S. PIRG’s Toy Safety Tips available at www.ToySafetyTips.org and at www.uspirg.org. Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.cpsc.gov and www.saferproducts.gov, or call the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772.

“Parents have to take time out to use discretion. It comes down to the parents being educated and informed to make a conscious decision for buying that toy,” the Safe Kids Coordinator said. “It’s a concern across the board for all parents.”