December 13, 2004
This time of year, many people are buying toys for friends, siblings,
cousins, nieces, nephews, and children of all ages.
"Making the right
toy selection for a child can be easy when parents are armed with
the right knowledge. Each year, more than 3 billion toys and games
are sold in the United States and more than half are purchased
during the holiday season. However, in 2002 alone, an estimated
165,200 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency
rooms for toy-related injuries. Although the majority of toys
are safe, some can become dangerous if used incorrectly or if
they end up with a child that is too young for a specific gift."
Nobody wants to give
a gift that causes one of these emergency room visits, and no
one wants to spend the holidays in an ER. With that in mind, please
"CPSC [U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission] has reports of 11 toy-related deaths
involving children under age 15 that occurred in 2003. The toys
involved in these fatal incidents were as follows... Victims of
the 11 fatal incidents ranged in age from 4 months to 9 years
old.... Ten deaths occurred where the child choked on or aspirated
a toy. The toys involved in these fatal incidents were 5 toy balls,
3 balloons, 1 game piece, and 1 toy bead. These children ranged
in age from 12 months to 9 years old.... There was 1 fatality
of a 4-month-old associated with positional asphyxia, involving
the closure of the child's airway by a stuffed toy.... In 2003
there were an estimated 206,500 toy-related injuries treated in
U.S. hospital emergency rooms. ... Seventy-five percent (155,400)
of the injuries for 2003 were to children under 15 years of age
and 34 percent (71,200) were to children under 5. Twenty-five
percent (51,100) of the injuries were to persons age 15 and up."
With over 50,000 emergency
room visits in 2003, people over the age of 15 need to be careful,
as well. It is not just the younger children that get hurt (though
the majority of the injuries were in this age range). Whether
you are under the age of 15 or over, you will likely be buying
toys this month (if you haven't already). Whether it is a gift
for someone younger, or you are getting something for yourself,
here are some things to keep in mind:
"Follow Age Recommendations
When Selecting Toys.
Many toy-related injuries occur
when parents overestimate their child's ability to handle a toy
designed for an older age group...."
a new toy, always read labels to make sure the toy is appropriate
for your child's age. You may think that because your child seems
mature for his or her age, he or she can handle a toy that was
meant for an older child. However, you're not doing your child
a favor by buying a toy for an advanced age group. Remember, the
age-appropriate level for a toy is determined by safety factors.
Always look for toys that appear to be well constructed and that
clearly include age recommendations on the labels. Toys made of
fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
Stuffed toys should be washable. All toys should be painted with
lead-free paint, and art materials (including crayons) should
say nontoxic somewhere on their packaging. Also, if a new toy
is shrink-wrapped, be sure to immediately discard the plastic
wrapping after opening the toy for the first time. Small children,
especially toddlers, may look at plastic wrap as something new
and fun to play with and put it into their mouths and choke. Holiday
gift wrapping, ribbons, and bows can be hazards as well. Federal
law bans using small parts in new toys for children younger than
3, and those for kids younger than 8 are supposed to be free of
sharp glass and metal edges. But be aware that older toys (like
hand-me-downs or toys purchased used) may include sharp edges,
break into jagged pieces, or break into parts small enough to
be swallowed by a child."
It's not just the new
toys you buy in stores, it can also include those toys you find
in grandma's closet as you visit over the holidays.... Or those
toys that have been in the family for years... Or the toys your
parents played with and passed down to you... Maybe even that
great find at a second-hand store or garage sale... Or that great
deal found online at an auction site... While an old toy may look
safe, it may have hidden dangers that you would never think to
check--since the dangers have not been an issue during your lifetime.
Your parents may not even remember some of the issues from so
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 1977...
WASHINGI'ON, D.C. (Sept. 2) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) has culminated a major regulatory proceeding
by issuing a final ban on lead-containing paint and on toys and
furniture coated with such paint. This action was taken to reduce
the risk of lead poisoning in children who may ingest paint chips
Are you concerned about
an old toy? While there is not a list of every toy that ever contained
lead paint, the CPSC does have recall notices dating back over
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 1974...
WASHINGTON, D.C.(Feb. 25) --The Consumer Product Safety Commission
today urged purchasers of a particular toy chest to return the
chests to the retailer where they were purchased for a full refund....
action came after the chests were reportedly associated with the
death of one child and serious injury to another in separate incidents.
The accidents apparently resulted from the children's heads being
caught between the front of the case and the top of the chest."
But what about today?
What about current recalls? While toys are tested and expected
to be safe when they are put on the market, there are times when
the manufacturer hears of a possible problem. In the best cases,
the toy is pulled from the shelves and refunds are offered after
one concern and no injuries.
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2004...
Name of product: Earlyears® Spirolly Rattle...
Hazard: The spiral section of the rattle can come apart, releasing
small balls inside. This can pose a choking hazard to young children.
Incidents/Injuries: The firm has received one report of the spiral
section of the toy coming apart. No injuries have been reported."
While choking is a major
concern, it is not just baby toys that are affected by recalls
and dangers. Toys for older kids have faster moving parts and
sharper edges; these can cause injuries, as well...
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2004...
Name of product: Super Soaker Monster Rocket...
Hazard: The cap on the water tank can unexpectedly and forcibly
project off when it is quickly unscrewed from the tank, posing
a risk of impact injuries to users or bystanders. In addition,
the rocket's tail can strike a user or bystander on descent, if
the rocket is not fully launched, posing a risk of injury. Incidents/Injuries:
Hasbro has received four reports of the cap being unexpectedly
projected off the rocket, resulting in three injuries, including
a slight concussion and a cut requiring
stitches. Additionally, Hasbro has received four reports of children
being struck by the descending rocket, including three cuts that
For a list of all toy
recalls on the CPSC website from 1974-current, you can visit:
Toys aren't recalled
if no one knows there is a problem with them. Do you have a concern
about a toy (or another consumer product) to report?
"By filling out
the form [found at the link] below and then submitting it, you
can report any injury or death involving consumer products to
[CPSC], or report an unsafe product to [CPSC].... You can also
report an incident or unsafe product by calling toll-free at 1-800-638-2772
or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com
Questions of the Week:
How could this additional information affect how someone shops
for toys throughout the year? Explain why you would (or would
not) make changes to your shopping habits knowing what you know
now? Beyond shopping, how could this information affect the choices
you make when playing with toys (whether babysitting, visiting
relatives, or hanging out with friends). Explain why you would
(or would not) change how you play knowing what you know now?
If you have found a product to be dangerous (or potentially dangerous),
what can you do?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum