July 14, 2004
Hospital urges parents to heed toy recalls, think first about safety
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Playing with toys teaches children how to share, encourages imagination and fun, as well as promoting life skills necessary for proper development. But before purchasing the latest trend, Methodist Rehabilitation Center physicians and staff urge parents and caregivers to ensure toys are safe and age appropriate.
“Despite the efforts that manufacturers, retailers, safety inspectors and others make, it is impossible to examine every toy,” says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist’s statewide safety and injury prevention program.
With over 20 types of toys already recalled this year, including metal toy jewelry, Batman Batmobiles, and NERF Big Play Footballs, Fairburn recommends that consumers be on the lookout for toy and product recalls, and not assume the manufacturer will notify them of problems.
She recommends using the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site, www.recalls.gov, for the latest toy recalls.
“Pay attention to age recommendations such as ‘not recommended for children under age 3’ and use that as a guide. Also consider whether the toy is suitable for the abilities, skills and interest level of the child. Toys too advanced for a child may be potentially dangerous.”
Look for stuffed toys and dolls that are flame resistant, washable and hygienic, she says. And if you plan to purchase in-line skates, scooters, bicycles or skateboards, always include a helmet, too.
“Wearing bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent,” said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab. “The key is to make sure the helmet is the right size and fits snug to the head.”
Also be sure to include protective eye gear and pads with sporting equipment, cautions Fairburn. “There are approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries every year and 90 percent could have been prevented with protective gear.”
The Think First team offers the following recommendations before purchasing toys:
- Read the label before buying any toy. Warning labels provide important information about how to use a toy, what ages the toy is safe for, and whether adult supervision is recommended.
- Think large when it comes to choosing toys. Avoid giving toys with small parts to infants and toddlers that may cause them to choke.
- Make sure all parts are secured tightly.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and avoid electric toys with heating elements for children under 8 years old.
- Avoid toxic items and materials that could cause poisoning. Look for paint sets, crayons and markers that are labeled nontoxic. Small batteries are not only toxic, but they also can pose a choking or swallowing hazard.
- Be careful when buying crib toys. Strings or wires may pose a serious strangulation hazard when a child begins to crawl or stand. Remove crib gyms and mobiles as soon as your child can push up on her hands and knees.
- Choose a toy chest carefully. It should remain open in any position and hinges should not pinch your child's skin. The chest also should have ventilation holes to prevent suffocation if your child becomes trapped inside. Try purchasing a box or basket without a top instead.