Dangerous Toys to Avoid
Those shopping for young children need to heed warnings before fulfilling holiday wish lists. Texas Children's Hospital has released the 2003 Texas Public Interest Research Group's (TexPIRG) annual list of most dangerous toys. TexPIRG's "Trouble in Toyland" report contains 55 toys that pose choking, toxic chemical exposure, hearing-loss and other hazards.
While manufacturers and retailers are doing a better job of placing choke hazards on bins in which toys with small parts are sold, as required by law, the leading cause of toy-related deaths continues to be choking.
"A happy holiday can turn disastrous in as little as 30 seconds – the time it takes for a small object to become lodged in a child's throat and cause serious injury, even death," says Dr. Ellen Friedman, chief of otolaryngology at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "Hopefully, parents and others buying for small children will see this list and pay attention to the warnings."
The 2003 "Trouble in Toyland" report is the 18th annual survey of toy safety conducted by TexPIRG. The report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose hazards.
"Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before they make a purchase this holiday season," says Sheila Jackson-Lee, congresswoman for district 18 in Houston. "While most manufacturers comply with the law, parents should not assume that all toys on store shelves are safe and adequately labeled."
TEXPIRG urges Internet-savvy shoppers to be extra cautious. "While the Internet offers consumers the convenience of avoiding toy stores and the possibility of making a purchase anytime, Internet purchasers won't see child-safety choke-hazard warnings required by law on toys sold in stores," says Stephanie Gros, field organizer for TexPIRG.
Hazardous toys still can be found on store shelves across the country, despite passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act, according to a nationwide survey. The TexPIRG list has resulted in the CPSC taking enforcement action on more than 100 toys in the past 18 years.
Toy Safety Facts
- Approximately 3.8 billion toys and games are sold in the United States each year. More than half of those are sold during the holiday season.
- More than 118,000 children younger than 14 are treated in emergency rooms annually for toy-related injuries.
- The TexPIRG report has resulted in more than 100 recalls and other
enforcement actions since 1986.
Common Toy Hazards
PIRG cautions consumers about toy hazards in four categories: choking hazards, toxic hazards, noise hazards and toys that pose strangulation/projectile hazards.
- Choking Hazards – Manufacturers and retailers are doing a better job of placing choke hazard labels on bins in which toys with small parts are sold, as required by law; however, PIRG researchers still found toys intended for children younger than 6 that contain small parts and did not include a Consumer Safety Product Association (CSPA) label.
- Toxic Hazards – Cosmetics marketed for children often contain xylene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), two toxic chemicals. Exposure to xylene (also known as xylol or dimethyl benzene) can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as irritate the skin, eyes and throat. DBP has been linked to skin and respiratory irritation and may affect the nervous system.
- Hearing Hazards – No federal guidelines regulate toy noise levels; however, toys with sounds of 100 decibels or more can significantly affect a child's hearing.
- Strangulation and Projectile Hazards – PIRG researchers found several toys that contain projectiles with sharp points and toys that could strangle and asphyxiate children.
For information on preventing injuries, visit the Texas Children's Center for Childhood Injury Prevention at www.texaschildrenshospital.org , by clicking on patient care centers, then childhood injury prevention.