December is “Safe Toys and Gift Month”. As many shop to find the perfect gifts for their favorite little ones this year, consumer safety groups are urging purchasers to consider safety before they snap up those holiday items.
U.S. Customs Border Control in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission has already intercepted over 2 million shipments of dangerous toys and prevented their distribution to retail shelves this year. In addition, the CPSC has issued recalls for 38 toy products.
Here are some tips for choosing the right toys
- Look for choking hazards with small or detachable parts.
- Check for strangulation dangers, opening sizes as compared to head size, or long strings or cords.
- Look for sharp edges or points.
- Check to ensure that toys meet noise standards (90 decibels from 25 cm).
- Ensure that no dangerous chemicals or metals are used.
- Be aware of potential heat or electrical shock issues as well as suffocation issues with toys or children’s products.
- Review all product safety labels on outer and inner packaging and take the time to show your child how to use the product. If there are safety concerns, it may be wise to choose a different toy.
Additionally, interested parents may want to review the 27th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report published by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). It is actually a good resource for information on acceptable noise, lead, and phthalate levels in toys.
Today, several pieces of key legislation exist to protect our youngest consumers. The most significant of which is the “Child Safety Protection Act” which established industry standards for manufacture and labeling as well as the designation of age requirements for toys and identification of safety hazards. The “Federal Hazardous Substances Act” bans toys that contain dangerous levels of hazardous substances, such as lead or xylene or those that present mechanical, electrical or thermal risk of injury. Additionally, “The Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act” requires appropriate labeling of art supplies where hazardous substances are used and present an undue danger to children. The toy industry has also created safety specifications as well.
As a result of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed in 2008, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission now offers a public database from which to research or post dangerous products or toys as well as injuries resulting from toy use. Unsafe products may be reported to SaferProducts.gov.
Because of established safety regulations and legislation, consumer products as a whole, are safer today than they were 20 years ago. With proper product labeling and defined manufacture specifications the number of actual toy recalls has decreased since 2008, as have the number of fatalities associated with these toys.
However, even with these protective countermeasures in place, parents should not take product safety for granted and assume that each product is safe. While the number of fatalities has decreased over the years, the number of injuries associated with toys has actually increased. The CPSC estimates that in 2011 approximately 262,300 children received emergency room care for toy related injuries in the United States. The most common injuries were contusions, lacerations, or abrasions often involving the head or face.
Caregivers should remain vigilant where toy use with children is concerned. Children do not read safety labels or understand toy age restrictions and are sure to envision more creative applications of play, than were originally intended by the producer of the product.
Photo Credit: phaewilk, Morguefile