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Toy Safety 2019: Latest on Hazards, Tips for Parents

Despite the year-round toy safety campaign against unsafe toys by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) [1] and private organizations, products are still sold that can be hazardous to kids.

A survey of 40 toys  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 [2].

In December, toy safety should be top-of-mind among parents as the holiday shopping season peaks. The CPSC reports that there were 251,700 toy-related injuries across the nation that required a trip to an emergency room in 2017, 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. [3], chair and medical director of emergency medicine at West Kendall Baptist Hospital [4].

The CPSC, along with other organizations, such as Kids In Danger and the Toy Association, is urging consumers to follow age recommendations on packaging. The World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. [5] (W.A.T.C.H.) is a non-profit organization that educates the public about dangerous children’s products. The group has released a list of what it believes is the worst choice of toys to give to children this holiday season, with some of the products possibly causing choking hazards, eye injuries and other impact injuries.

“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:

Also, see the Toy Association’s list of toy recalls [6].