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For Children’s Safety, Be Conscientious About Toys

Toys are a very big business and, in the U.S. alone, are a multi-billion dollar market.  Such a large market attracts profiteers and those willing to sidestep the governmental regulatory protections created for child protection, sometimes leaving evaluation of safety hazards only to scrutinizing parents. That is where you come into the child safety picture.  There are articles to aid you that I will mention at the end of this article, but first some general suggestions.

Above all, use common sense in allowing your children to play with their gifts. Always note the age limits assigned to toys on their label and boxes.  Read toy articles and reviews about a particular toy, if in doubt. The bottom line, from a commonsense prerogative, is always, if you are not sure if a toy is safe, take it back and find your kids something that is safe.  There are plenty of alternatives and your scrutiny can be lifesaving.

In reviewing U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) Survey of Toy Safety I came away enlightened on a few things I saw on toy shelves:

  • The traditional choking warning is not always where it ought to be. For instance, balloons are the highest single cause of infant suffocation of any toy. However, the PIRG’s Survey reported its review of balloons marketed for children’s use had no choking hazard labels in over 87% of that marketing. That is a plain legal safety violation… which only a scrutinizing parent might pick up on. It is very dangerous to let any child under three play with balloons.

Of course, the presence of small parts in toys is a generally known potential choking hazard. Most of us are now fairly conscious of this hazard from media reports and even toy labels.  The highest risk children are under age 3. Peg games, golf games, magnet packs, hatching toys, and football games are productive of choke size parts. But here is a simple check to lower choking hazards risks: Before allowing play with a small parts toy, check to see if any of the parts will slide through a toilet paper roll. If the parts will, then there is a fair assumption that they may become stuck in a child’s trachea. (You do not completely preclude a choking hazard with this simple test, but you at least preclude one obvious potential for one.)

  • Scrutinizing toy labels for ingredients and chemicals which can be toxic if ingested. For instance, “Slimes” are a presently popular toy. (Do not ask an adult why…). And “Slimes” often contain toxic levels of borax (boron), which when eaten can result in severe nausea, vomiting, reproductive issues and seizures.  At present, there is no regulation of the amount of boron in children’s “Slimes” products and some studies have found 15 times “acceptable” human levels in some of them.

In the same vein, children’s make-up is not a “toy” and is NOT regulated as a toy.  Avoid allowing your children to play with make-up. Be particularly careful of make-up products which contain talc, which contains asbestos.

  • Toys which create sounds usually are not tested for children’s tolerance/comfort levels and can be harmful to a child’s hearing. Try it out, if its loudness bothers you, it could be painful to a child.
  • Beware of “old toys.” Older toys may have preceded efforts to bring about greater toy safety and an internet check on the older toy for Consumer Product Commission recalls or hazardous issues might provide some valuable protection. (Go to recalls.gov & www.SaferProducts.gov)
  • I saved my favorite hazard topic for last…Smart Toys. Websites, apps, electronic games and smart toys are often designed to collect private data from user children, even young children, without parental consent.  And worse… that personal data is hackable. One electronic toymaker has been charged by the FTC with collection of personal data on hundreds of thousands of children, of course, without parental consent!  Another retailer of popular tablets designed for children has conceded that its “Kids’ Edition” can share a child’s private information with third parties for advertising purposes and not delete the stored data! This issue has become so prevalent that the FBI issued a warning to consumers: “consider cybersecurity prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet connected toys into your home…”.

Intrigued and want more than a sampling report?  Download the United States Public Interest Research Survey of Toy Safety at https://uspirg.org/feature/usp/trouble-in-toyland

Richard Tanner is our Tallahassee Office Partner, offering litigation services in personal injury and products liability cases. He can be reached for case discussions at rtanner@dsklawgroup.com or 850-201-3655.

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