The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced late last year that toys were safer for the holiday season then they had been in years, but just because the holidays are over and all the presents are unwrapped does not mean parents can let up paying attention to their children’s playthings.
Injuries and recalls of dangerous toys are down for a number of reasons. New safeguards have limited the use of lead, third-party testing has highlighted problematic toys and the Department of Homeland Security is helping to track shipments leading to more toy seizures. The agency also set tight limits on the use of some phthalates and cadmium.
Toy recalls were down sharply in FY 2011. Only 34 toys were recalled last year – down from 46 in 2010, 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008, according to a CPSC release.
Toys with small parts, balls and balloons continue to be the most problematic, according to CPSC chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum. Toys that are inappropriate for certain age groups can be deadly. There are about 15 toy-related fatalities every year and half of those are attributed to choking on balls and balloons.
“Strong toy standards support the production of safer toys in the marketplace,” Tenenbaum said. “Parents and toy shoppers also always need to be vigilant by choosing age-appropriate toys and keeping small parts, balls, and balloons out of the hands of young children.”
Deflated balloons should always be discarded immediately. Toys with small parts can be a dangerous choking hazard and should be kept away from children under 3.
Children under 6 years old should be kept away from magnets, which if swallowed can be potentially harmful and possibly fatal, according to the CPSC.
More than 180,000 children under 15-years-old went to the emergency room in 2010 because of toy-related injuries. More than any other toy, non-motorized scooters sent more kids to the ER with lacerations and broken bones, according to the CPSC press release.
Riding toys including scooters, skateboards and in-line skates should be used only with appropriate safety gear like helmets and knee pads. Safety gear should be fitted properly by an adult.
Even though the main gift-giving month is over, the CPSC advises diligence from parents as toys are exchanged or bought with gift cards received during the holidays. Now that parents have a house full of toys, it is important for parents of children of different ages to keep toys separated from younger siblings that can be hurt by them.