by Tim O’Hare
Just because a toy is on the shelf in the store doesn’t mean it is safe for your kids to play with. Don’t get so caught up in buying your children the gifts they want this Christmas that you fail to consider the safety of those gifts. Though the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) fewer toys were found to contain toxins this year, they have their eyes on toys that create a potential hazard for children for multiple other reasons.
Topping the list of PIRG’s key findings in their “Trouble in Toyland 2012” report are toys containing lead or phthalate, toys which pose a choking hazard, toys containing high-powered magnets and toys with dangerously high noise levels.
The PIRG report lists several examples of toys, which pose different hazards to children, including (but not limited to):
- Choking – Dragster cars, manufactured by www.zwindups.com; a bowling game by www.coolnoveltyproducts.com; a ball on a stick launcher made by RT Toy Factory; balloons; and several sets of toy food all contain small parts that pose a choking hazard to children.
- Lead and toxic chemicals – Dora the Explorer backpack by Global Design Concepts, Inc., and the Morphobot by GreenBrier International, Inc., both contain high levels of lead.
- Magnets – Snake Eggs by GreeBrier International, Inc. contain small magnets small enough for a child to swallow.
- Noise – Dora the Explorer guitar, manufactured by Fisher-Price; car wheel and horn by Toystate.com; and FunKeys Car Keys by Maison Joseph Battat ltd., exceed recommended noise levels. Prolonged exposure to loud noises from these toys may harm hearing.
When shopping for your children this holiday season, the PIRG recommends watching for toys with these potential hazards:
- Choking – The most common cause of toy-related deaths is choking. Do not buy toys with small parts for children under three. If a toy or toy part can pass through a toilet paper tube, it is too small for a child under three. Small balls and balloons also pose significant hazard to small children. Balls for children under six years of age must be 1.75 inches in diameter. Latex balls and balloons should never be given to children under 8 years old.
- Magnets – Several toys, including building toys, darts and toy jewelry use small, powerful magnets. If swallowed, these magnets can attract each other in the body, causing life-threatening complications. If a child swallows a magnet, seek immediate medical attention.
- Strangulation – Toys and clothes with cords or drawstrings are a strangulation hazard for children. Infant crib mobiles should be removed from the crib before the baby is 5 months old or can push him/herself up. Knobs or beads at the end of cords longer than one foot should be removed. Drawstrings on clothing can get caught in objects, such as playground equipment, potentially strangling a child.
- Toxic chemicals – Toys containing lead and other toxic chemicals should be avoided. Toys made of PVC plastic may contain toxic phthalates, which pose developmental hazards to children. Lead may also be found in painted toys, vinyl toys and even costume jewelry. A home lead tester, found at a hardware store, can be used to test toys for lead. Avoid products containing xylene, toluene or dibutyl phthalate.
If you think a toy or product is hazardous, report it to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.saferproducts.gov.
Check toy recalls at www.recalls.gov.
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