December 12, 2005
Make Safety a top concern when toy shopping
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As you look over your child’s wish list this holiday season, consider each request with an eye toward safety, says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program.
“Sometimes children want toys that are totally inappropriate for their age level or abilities,” Fairburn said. “So it’s the responsibility of parents to make sure their children don’t receive toy that might be dangerous to their health.”
In 2004, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received reports of 16 toy-related deaths involving children under age 15. The commission said an estimated 161,100 children were treated for toy-related injuries in U.S. hospital emergency rooms last year.
“Most deaths happen when a child chokes on a small ball or toy,” Fairburn said. “That’s why it’s critical for gift-givers to pay attention to package safety advisories, such as ‘not suitable for children under age 3.’ ”
The safety commission also reported a high number of deaths related to tricycles last year. Some of the children were hit by motor vehicles, while others died when they rode off into swimming pools. “These are tragic reminders that toddlers should always be supervised when they play with riding toys,” Fairburn said.
Fairburn recommends that parents pair all purchases of in-line skates, scooters, bicycles or skateboards with an appropriate size bike helmet. “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,” she said.
Also be sure to include protective eye gear and pads with sporting equipment, cautioned Fairburn. “There are approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries every year and 90 percent could have been prevented with protective gear.”
Fairburn also recommends that consumers be on the lookout for toy and product recalls, and to not assume manufacturers will notify them of problems. Information on the latest recalls from federal agencies can be found at www.recalls.gov.
The CPSC recommends using the following tips to help choose appropriate toys for children:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.
- For infants, toddlers and all children who still mouth objects, avoid toys with small parts, which could pose a fatal choking hazard.
- Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly-secured eyes, noses and other potential small parts.
- For all children under 8, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.
- Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under 8.
- Be a label reader. Look for toy labels that give age and safety recommendations and use that information as a guide.
- Check toy instructions for clarity—for both you and, when appropriate, the child.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation, before they become deadly playthings.