Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah everyone. The shopping season is in full-swing, and even on Thanksgiving, bargain hunting trumps family nowadays. So shop we will, and that means toys for all the children on our lists—purchased in stores and/or online–so beware of the dangers lurking behind the colorful packaging.
The consumer safety organization W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) reminds us that the toy industry is big business, indeed, and brings in some $2 billion in sales every year in just the U.S. alone. The group also says that, “… while there are dangerous toys being sold in retail stores and online, awareness this holiday season and year-round can truly save lives.”
Need some convincing? Well, here you go:
- From 1990 to 2011, toy-related injuries increased by 40%.
- In 2013 alone, there were more than 25,000 toy-related injuries.
- A child is treated in U.S. emergency rooms every 3 minutes for toy-related injuries.
- Between 2010 and 2013, 50 children died in toy-related incidents.
So, be well-advised about the possible dangers lurking on toy shelves—both the brick and mortar and virtual kinds—and think twice before purchasing…
- Battery-operated riding vehicles that might unexpectedly accelerate.
- Items from China, such as dolls, that might contain potentially toxic phthalates, chemicals that make plastic more flexible.
- “Fashion jewelry” from China that may contain harmful heavy metals.
- Items that contain small, rattling beads that can pose a choking hazard.
- Toys with attached small, easily removed parts, such as eyes on stuffed animals, that can pose choking hazards.
- Stuffed animals for the very young, as they can pose a suffocation hazard.
- Toys with easily opened battery compartments.
- Toys with small but strong magnets; if swallowed, these can cause internal injuries.
- Toys that use button batteries that, if swallowed, can leak toxic compounds.
- Toys made of easily broken or shattered plastic or glass, such as porcelain dolls.
Moreover, use the age recommendations on the packaging as a guide, but keep the child you’re gifting clearly in mind, too. For instance, does everything he can get his hands on go in his mouth? Is she a bit reckless with toys? Does he tend to pull apart toys and stuffed animals? You get the idea… Purchase accordingly.
Also, Dr. Young-Jin Sue, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, reminds us: “In general, toys small enough to hide inside a cardboard toilet paper roll may present the most risk for choking. Try to avoid these items and stick with larger toys with few detachable parts.”
And check out Sarah Mazzone’s madeinusachallenge.com, too, for help on sticking with American-made toys–and other products, as well–as they are more rigorously regulated and inspected than those made outside of the USA.
Meanwhile, W.A.T.C.H. wants you to know about the ten, do-not-buy, “worst toys” of 2015:
- “Bud” Skipit’s Wheely Cute Pull Along ($29.99): It’s recommended for babies 6 months and older but comes with no warnings. The hazard: choking
- Foam Dart Gun ($13.99): It’s recommended for ages 3+ and comes with the warning, “Do not aim at eyes or face…” The hazard: Realistic toy weaponry
- Stats 38 Quick Folding Trampoline ($49.99): It’s recommended for ages 6+ and comes with the warning, “Performing any physical activity presents risk of injury and adult supervision is required…” The hazard: Potential head, neck, and other bodily injuries
- Poo-Dough ($4.99): It’s recommended for ages 3+ and comes with the warning—and on the packaging only, “Allergy notice: Contains wheat.” The hazard: Potential for allergy-related injuries (Gotta tell you: It even comes with a “poo mold” and 3 cans of “Poo dough)
- Splat X Smack Shot ($10.00): It’s recommended for ages 8+ and comes with the warning, “Do not aim or shoot at people or animals…” The hazard: Potential eye injury
- Kick Flipper ($19.99): It’s recommended for ages 5+ and comes with the warning, “Do not use on stairs, hills, or inclines…” The hazard: Potential for head and impact injuries
- Leonardo’s Electronic Stealth Sword ($24.99): It’s recommended for ages 4+ and comes with the warning, “Not suitable for children under 3; Small parts.” The hazard: Potential for blunt force injuries
- Kid Connection Doctor Play Set ($4.97): It’s recommended for ages 2+ and comes with no warnings. The hazard: Potential for ingestion and choking injuries
- Pull-Along Zebra ($20.99): It’s recommended for ages 12 to 36 months and comes with the warning, “Remember babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potentially harmful, so supervision Is important…” The hazard: Potential for strangulation and entanglement injuries
- Jurassic World Velociraptor Claws ($19.99): It’s recommended for ages 4+ and comes with the warning, “Choking hazard—small parts will be generated. Not for children under 3 years.” The hazard: Potential for eye and facial injuries
The bottom line: Buyer beware for safety’s sake, thus keeping the merry and happy in this gift-giving season.