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Check out my video on toy safety for the holidays

Toy tips for the 2020 holidays

Child on Scooter Wearing Helmet-4999789_640Just because a toy is being sold doesn’t mean it’s safe.

For each of the last five years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented that U.S. hospital emergency departments treated about 225,000 and 250,000 children with toy-related injuries every year. That’s one about every three minutes.

Deaths in 2018

3 – Nonmotorized scooters (with motor vehicle involvement).

3 – Rubber balls and balloons due to airway obstruction.

11 – Stuffed toys, water toys, plastic toy foods, water guns, and toy dart guns, due to airway obstruction or drowning.

Injuries

First – Lacerations.

Second – Contusions/abrasions.

Third – Fractures, except for children younger than 5. Under 5, internal injuries, foreign body, and ingestion.

The majority of injuries are from riding toys such as scooters and skateboards.

Tips for parents

  1. Read the label. Check the warning labels, instructions, and age recommendations, and look for any small pieces that may present a choking hazard. Be aware: There are choking hazards that lack a proper warning online or don’t have the mandatory warning label on the packaging.
  2. Toys with small parts: Before your child plays with a toy for the first time, see if smaller parts fit through a toilet paper roll – indicating they pose a choking hazard. Also check out any accessories that come with a toy. A child died when choking on a broken pacifier that came with a doll.
  3. Balloons: Balloons are the No. 1 choking hazard for children. Never let a child under 3 play with them, and monitor any child under 8. 
  4. Check toys often. Look for hazards such as loose parts, broken pieces, or sharp edges. Repair or discard any weak or broken toys. Report any hazards to the manufacturer and the CPSC. The CPSC has a form you can fill out on its website for hazardous consumer products.
  5. Put toys away. Consider using a toy chest for toy storage, and teach children to put their toys away after playing with them so they aren’t sitting around where they can cause injury. This is especially important when older adults live in the home or are visitors. Falls can be devastating to their health. In addition, if you have a toddler and an older child, develop a system where the toys for the older child are always put away and stored out of reach of the toddler.
  6. Get a helmet. If you’re getting something the child will ride on, such as a bike, scooter, skateboard, skis, or snowboard, make sure you get a helmet to go with it. In addition, get knee and elbow pads for scooter and skate board riders. Since most of the emergency room visits related to toys are for kids riding scooters and skateboards, go over safe riding with kids. Of the injuries from these toys, half are to the face and head.
  7. Get rid of magnets. Magnets of all types have posed risks to children for years. Some are part of toy building sets aimed at children as young as 3 years old, although some children that age don’t know not to eat or inhale them. And some magnets aren’t intended for kids; they’re more like fidget toys for adults, who can use “recreational” magnets to create shapes or figures. The CPSC banned them in 2014. The 10th circuit court allowed magnets back on the market in 2016. The nation’s poison control centers recorded six times more magnet ingestions – totaling nearly 1,600 cases in 2019 – after the ruling. A bill has been introduced in Congress to ban them again. Consumer Reports recommends that people not buy rare earth magnets because they’re so dangerous. They’re 300 times stronger than refrigerator magnets. When two of the magnets are swallowed, they pinch the digestive tissue together cutting off the blood supply to the area, which causes the tissue to die. The magnets also can tear holes in the digestive system, which allows digestive fluid to leak into the abdominal cavity. If you must have rare earth magnets in your home and have children, lock them In a box or cabinet. Even teens have ingested the magnets pretending, like younger children, that they’re piercings.
  8. Avoid toys that make loud noises: Sounds with decibel levels of more than 80 can cause potential hearing damage in children, and noises between 100 and 120 decibels can cause damage if they last more than one minute, according to the WHO. US PIRG researchers found a toy fire truck for sale on Amazon noisy enough to potentially damage a kid’s hearing.
  9. Slime: Some slimey materials contain high levels of toxic boron. Consider alternatives, or monitor kids at all times. Call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 if any is ingested.
  10. Look for BPA, PVC, and phthalate free toys: If your child is chewing on toys, be aware that most soft plastic toys contain PVC. Look for toys made from polypropylene. The Green Child has a website with a list of companies that sell green toys.
  11. Check product recalls. Safe Kids compiles product recalls and sends twice-monthly e-mail alerts. Parents can sign up at https://www.safekids.org/product-recalls. Also check recalls.gov. US PIRG found three separate recalled toys for sale on eBay, and in two cases, found full pages selling the recalled products.
  12. Avoid cheap metal or painted jewelry. For children who may still mouth objects, the jewelry may contain lead. Ingesting even small amounts of lead can be harmful to a child’s health and development. This jewelry also is dangerous for older children. They can easily get lead on their hands from handling the jewelry, then ingest it when eating later. Recent studies have shown that even small amounts of lead can cause damage to a child’s neurological system.

Parents need to do their homework and make sure dangerous products don’t get into their homes.

Groups that can help

U.S. PIRG – 35thTrouble in Toyland” report.

Kids in Danger or KID – Advocates for safe products for children and provides education.

Safe Kids – Has good recall information. Does the car seat checks.

Consumer Reports – Tests consumer products. Writes about dangerous toys.

World Against Toys Causing Harm or W.A.T.C.H. – Does an annual list of the top 10 dangerous toys.

W.A.T.C.H. lists the following as the most dangerous toys of 2020 and suggests parents think twice before bringing these home. It’s the group’s 48th report.

  1. Calico Critters Nursery Friends. A potential for chocking injuries.
  2. Missile Launcher. A potential for eye and facial injuries.
  3. Marvel Avengers Vibranium Power FX Claw. A potential for eye and facial injuries.
  4. Gloria Owl. A potential for ingestion/aspiration injuries.
  5. WWE Jumbo Superstar Fists. A potential for bunt force and impact injuries.
  6. Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime. A potential for chemical-related injuries.
  7. The Original Boomerang Interactive Stunt UFO. A potential for cutting and propeller-related injuries.
  8. Boom City Racers Starter Pack. A potential for eye and facial injuries.
  9. My Sweet Love Lots to Love Babies Minis. A potential for ingestion and choking injuries.
  10. Star Wars Mandalorian Darksaber. A potential for blunt force and eye injuries.

W.A.T.C.H. says these aren’t the only 10 dangerous toys on the market. They’re just examples to help parents and caregivers be aware of the type of problems toys present.

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