It's that time of year again, when parents, grandparents, and friends are checking off their holiday toy shopping lists. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants consumers to know that while safety should be at the top of everyone's toy list, stronger federal rules are making a positive impact and restoring confidence in the safety of toys.
New toy safeguards include: establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world; converting the voluntary toy standards into mandatory standards; and working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track shipments in transit from other countries, thereby increasing seizure of dangerous imported toys.
These safeguards, along with safety-conscious steps taken by many toy makers and sellers, have contributed to a continued decline in toy recalls since 2008. There were 34 toy recalls in fiscal year 2011. This is down from 46 toy recalls in fiscal year 2010, 50 recalls in 2009, and 172 recalls in 2008. In 2011, toy recalls related to lead declined to 4, down from 19 in 2008.
A report (pdf) released by CPSC also notes that about 181,500 children younger than 15 years of age were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments due to toy-related injuries in 2010. Nonmotorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries. Frequently these injuries involved lacerations, contusions, and abrasions to the child's face and head. Importantly many of the incidents were associated with, but not necessarily caused by, a toy.
Here are some safety steps that consumers can take while shopping this holiday season:
- Make sure you're buying the right toy for the right aged child.
- Balloons - Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than 8 years old. Discard broken balloons at once.
- Small balls and other toys with small parts - For children younger than age 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.
- Scooters and other riding toys - Riding toys, skateboards, and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times, and they should be sized to fit.
- Magnets - For children under age 6, avoid building or play sets with small magnets. If magnets or pieces with magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.
Once the gifts are open:
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings or other packaging on toys before they become dangerous play things.
- Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.
- Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.