January 16, 2019 by Laura Pincus and Patty Shillington
Toy Safety 2018: Latest on Recalls, Tips for Parents
Despite the year-round toy safety campaign against unsafe toys by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), products are sold that can be hazardous to kids.
A new survey of 40 toys this year by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that 15 of them had issues that included high concentrations of unsafe chemicals and potential choking hazards.
“With hundreds of new toys hitting the market every year, our survey of only 40 toys suggests there may be other potentially dangerous toys slipping through existing protections or worthy of further investigation,” stated the independent, public interest group in its Trouble in Toyland 33rd annual survey.
In December, toy safety should be top-of-mind among parents as the holiday shopping season peaks. In 2017, the CPSC reports that there were 251,700 toy-related injuries across the nation that required a trip to an emergency room, according to the most up-to-date data available. That number has been steadily increasing since 2013, when there were 246,300 toy-related injuries.
Of the 251,700 estimated emergency department-treated injuries associated with toys in 2017, 73 percent (184,000) were sustained by children younger than 15 years of age; 69 percent (174,300) involved kids 12 years or younger; and 36 percent (89,800) affected children younger than 5 years of age.
Riding toys, specifically non-motorized scooters and tricycles, were the toy category associated with the most injuries, representing nearly half of 13 toy-related deaths reported last year. Other deaths were linked to airway obstructions caused by swallowing small toy accessories. All of the riding toy deaths were due to accidents with motor vehicles. Of the ER-treated injuries, 38 percent were classified as lacerations, contusions or abrasions. Forty-four percent of the estimated injuries were to the head and face area, the most commonly affected part of the the body in accidents with toys.
Many parents don’t realize that the CPSC does not test all toys, and that not all products online or in stores meet safety standards. Unfortunately, safety issues with toys often only become known after a child is hurt.
“We see items on a shelf and we assume that if it’s in a store, it must be safe. But that’s not always the case,” said Joseph Scott, M.D., chair and medical director of emergency medicine at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.
The CPSC, along with other organizations, such as Kids In Danger and the Toy Association, is urging consumers to follow age recommendations on packaging.
“Be vigilant and don’t assume a toy is safe,” Dr. Scott advised. “Try to anticipate what could go wrong. We don’t want to assume the worst all the time, and we want our children to have fun, but you have to realize there is always a risk.”
The following tips for parents are from the CPSC and other public interest groups:
- Check the label: Follow age guidance and other safety information on packaging (age grading is based on safety concerns and on the toy’s developmental appropriateness for children).
- Avoid toys with small parts, as well as marbles and small balls, for children under age three.
- Ensure that stuffed toys have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or secured eyes and noses for younger children and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
- Be careful with magnets: High-powered magnet sets are a safety risk to children – toddler through teen. Children have swallowed loose magnets, causing serious intestinal injuries.
- Choose toys that match your child’s interests and abilities, as well as your family’s play environment.
- Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, be sure to include helmets. Helmets should be worn properly at all times, and they should be sized to fit.
- Know your seller. Purchase toys from retailers you know and trust.
Also, see the Toy Association’s 2018 list of toy recalls.