Keep Safety in Mind when Shopping for Toys this Season

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One thing to be thankful for this year: parents will find a much safer selection of toys this holiday season. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act took effect earlier this year and has significantly reduced the number of toy recalls related to phthalates and lead in the products.

This week, the United States praised China for taking toy safety seriously and closing a number of toy factors that did not comply with safety standards for toxic chemicals. More than 300 toys and kids’ products made in China were recalled in 2007 and 2008 because of dangerous levels of lead in the paint and other safety concerns. This year, only 38 toys have been recalled, 15 of those related to lead paint, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act allows only 90 parts per million (ppm) of lead paint in toys and 300 ppm in overall lead content. Certain phthalates, the chemical that makes plastic flexible and malleable, has been banned from toys and products that children are likely to put into their mouths. Third-party testing of certain products is also required under the Act.

However, some safety concerns remain. The top concern is that parents and grandparents continue to heed the age level suggestions on the product. Buying toys that are too advanced can pose choking hazards or other risks for children.

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Each year, approximately 235,000 toy-related injuries are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the U.S. Most of the injuries were lacerations, contusions or abrasions on the head and neck. 73% of the toy-related injuries were in children ages 14 and younger.

Motorized scooters, bicycles and other riding toys are high on the list of safety concerns this Christmas. Children often receive the toy but not the safety equipment that should go with it, such as helmets and knee and elbow pads.

The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group is due to release its 24th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report today. Last year’s list can be found at www.wispirg.org. It details toys that may pose choking hazards, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain toxic chemicals.

WATCH, World Against Toys Causing Harm, releases a “10 Worst Toys” list each year, which usually involves toys that are sold as “appropriate and safe”, but pose strangulation, choking, and projectile hazards. The full list is available at http://toysafety.org/worsttoylist_index.shtml.

Recall notices are posted at most retailers and additional information on toy safety can be found on the CPSC Web site (www.cpsc.gov) and at www.recalls.gov.

Here are more safe-toy guidelines when shopping this holiday season for your loved ones, courtesy of SafeKidsUSA:

  • Make sure to buy age-appropriate toys. All toys are clearly marked if they have small parts; do not buy toys with small parts for children younger than age three (or allow a child under age three to play with those kinds of toys belonging to an older sibling). Also, avoid building sets with small magnets for children under age six.
  • Identify dangerous small parts. To be sure of a toy’s size, use a small parts tester or the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify choking hazards. Do not let small children play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders.
  • Buy the proper safety gear. If you purchase a riding toy, such as a scooter, skateboard, in-line skates or bicycle, remember that the gift isn’t complete without a helmet and appropriate protective gear. Riding toys should not be used near vehicle traffic, stairs, swimming pools or bodies of water.
  • Inspect toys to make sure they are in good repair. Check children’s play areas for missing or dislodged parts (such as magnets). Do not let young children play with toys that have straps, cords or strings longer than 7 inches, due to the risk of strangulation.
  • Actively supervise children. Caregivers should actively supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component. Simply being in the same room as your child is not necessarily supervising. Active supervision means keeping the child in sight and in reach and paying undivided attention.
  • Practice proper storage. Teach children to put toys away after playing to help prevent falls and unsupervised play, and make sure toys intended for younger children are stored separately from those for older children. Toy chests should be equipped or retrofitted with safety hinges that prevent the lid from closing on a child who is leaning over the open chest; if a chest does not have safety hinges, remove the lid.
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