As shoppers set out to buy holiday gifts, colorful toys will catch the eye of children and adults. However, some toys can have hidden dangers, exposing children to dangerous chemicals or injury-causing hazards.
At a November 22 toy safety press conference at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor urged families to pay close attention to information available online to guide them in choosing safe toys this holiday season. Held at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, the event highlighted Trouble in Toyland: the 31st Annual Survey of Toy Safety by the Florida PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. The survey has resulted in more than 150 recalls and regulatory actions during its more than 30 years.
“Toys continue to be a challenge on a daily basis,” said Dr. Wassam Rahman, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, during the event.
Even with labeling requirements and structurally safer toys, the reality is that some 200,000 children are treated every year in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. With so many toys available, consumers should remain alert as they browse shops and the internet for hazardous recalled toys that may still be available for purchase.
As more consumers shift to online shopping, Trouble in Toyland has shifted its focus to look at previously recalled toys that may still be available for purchase through Internet retailers or that families may already have at home. The latest survey, now available on the Florida PIRG site, looks at toys recalled from January 2015 to October 2016 and investigates if these toys are still available for purchase online. Of the 44 items detailed in the report, 8 items were still able to be obtained from online retailers.
Toy recalls, such as the ones noted in the report, happen for a variety of reason, but they can be organized into a few main categories:
- High levels of chemicals – Phthalates (often found in certain plastics) and lead (commonly in paint and jewelry items) can adversely affect development.
- Excessive noise – Young children have delicate eardrums and toys that are too loud can damage hearing. If it sounds too loud, it probably is.
- Choking hazards from small parts including small balls/marbles – If a toy part can fit through a standard toilet paper roll it is a potential choking hazard for children age 3 and younger. Balloons and small balls should not be given to children younger than 6.
- Magnets – Magnets are becoming smaller and more powerful. When two or more are ingested they can bind together and cause serious intestinal damage. Keep magnetic items intended for adults, as well as toys with magnets that could come loose, away from children.
- Batteries – If swallowed, batteries can leak acid causing severe injury. Button batteries are in many toys and are easy for young children to swallow. Additionally, some toys have rechargeable batteries that require USB charging cables which can cause burns if overheated.
- Other hazards such as falls or lacerations resulting from the toy breaking.
While it is easy to track down consumers who purchased items such as automobiles and car seats when they are recalled, many caregivers may not know if a toy they own or are considering purchasing has been recalled unless they are diligently checking websites such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website.
It takes the combined effort of advocates, legislators and parents/caregivers to ensure that playtime is safe for all children. Consumers can use these resources to search for and report unsafe toys:
- USPIRGEdFund.org has tips for selecting safe toys for children.
- Check the CPSC website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline at (800) 638-CPSC to report a toy you think is unsafe.
- Visit SaferProducts.gov to search for recalls and report unsafe toys.
- Sign up for recall alerts from Recalls.gov.
- Safe Kids Worldwide offers an up-to-date list of recalled items.