This holiday season, hundreds of central New Yorkers will unknowingly purchase dangerous defective toys in malls and stores in Syracuse, Rochester, Auburn, Geneva, Waterloo and other upstate cities. Dangerous Toys Lead to Injury, Death and, eventually, to defective product Lawsuits.
According to the most recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data, last year, 2008, defective toys caused the deaths of 19 children and resulted in more than 82,000 emergency room visits by children under age 5. Many of these injuries and deaths lead to product liability lawsuits in which the injured or killed children’s parents alleged that the toys were defective or overly dangerous.
Despite all the bad publicity dangerous toys bring to their manufacturers, toy makers continue to make some toys that are unreasonably dangerous for children, especially small children.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently released its 24th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. Once again, the three most dangerous characteristics of the toys on its list were: (1) choking hazard; (2) excessively loud; (3) contained toxic chemicals.
CHOKING HAZARDS: This is the number one cause of toy-related deaths. The danger is mostly for children three years old or younger. The good news: You can easily learn to identify a choking hazard. Check toys to see if they have small parts that can fit into a toilet paper tube. If they can, the toy is a choking hazard. Also, avoid small balls and round objects for small children. Balls should be at least 1.75″ in diameter. Also, be aware that balloons, and pieces of balloons, can completely block a child’s airway. Children under 8 years of age should never be given balloons.
NOISE HAZARDS: Children’s ears are more sensitive than adults’, and thus are vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss. If a toy seems too loud for an adult’s ears, it is surely too loud for a child’s. Most toys should be no louder than 85 decibels at 10 inches away. If the toy seems too loud, cover the area emitting the noise with duct tape to reduce the volume.
TOXINS: Children are more vulnerable than adults to harmful chemicals because of their young, developing systems. The two most important chemicals to avoid are lead and phthalates. Lead is still often found in costume/novelty jewelry. Young children who tend to put things in their mouths should not be given such “toys”. Lead exposure in children can lower IQ, delay mental and physical development, and even lead to death. The other chemical mentioned, phthalate, is linked to reproductive defects, genital abnormalities and early puberty. Phthalates are used to make plastic softer. A 2008 federal law banned them in children’s products. When buying soft plastic toys, look for toys labeled “phthalate-free.” Avoid plastic bath toys or bath books, unless they have the label.
PIRG has also made available a new interactive tool that can be accessed by computer or smart phone to help parents avoid dangerous toys. Parents can also report an unsafe toy on the site, which PIRG will then investigate.
Buy safe toys. Have a happy and safe holiday season,