Dangerous Toys Can Cause Eye Injuries, Ophthalmology Group Warns

Toy recalls and toy injuries are on the rise.  While many parents this year have worried about lead in toys, one medical organization is warning of another danger -   toys that can cause serious eye injuries. There were over 210,000 toy injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2005 and about 6,000 of those involved injuries to the eyes of children under the age of 15, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

This year, the CPSC recalled 61 toys involving more than 25 million products; over six million toys have been recalled due to lead, the highest number ever due to product defects. The attention paid to lead tainted toys is understandable.  Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and can cause mental and physical retardation and behavioral and other health problems in children.  In adults, lead can damage the nervous system. But lead is not the only toy injury danger children face.    Many other dangerous toys can damage children’s eyes, warns the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

“The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness and celebration.  A serious eye injury can bring an abrupt end to the celebration.  Parents should choose a toy that is appropriate for their child’s age, abilities, maturity, and the parent’s willingness to supervise use of the toy,” Dr. David Coats, clinical correspondent for the AAO and a pediatric ophthalmologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said in a prepared statement.  BB guns, darts, pellet guns, and paintball guns are among the toys that pose a threat to the eyes.  “Any toy that can eject or propel an object can lead to a serious eye injury if used incorrectly.  This includes innocuous appearing toys such as a popgun or a paddleball set,” Coats said.  He also said children who receive sports equipment as gifts should be given protective eyewear.  “If you plan to give sports equipment, provide appropriate protective gear, such as helmets, facemasks, or goggles with polycarbonate lenses,” Coats said.

In general, look for labels that give age and safety recommendations and select toys to suit the child’s age, abilities, skills, and interest.  Look for sturdy construction.  No toys with sharp edges and points for children under eight, no small magnets for children under six—when swallowed, magnets can cause serious injuries and death—and no small parts for children under three.  Immediately discard plastic wrappings and keep older children’s toys away from young children.  Read instructions and warnings on battery chargers; some are unable prevent overcharging and can cause thermal burn hazards.  Riding toys, skateboards, and in-line skates go fast and falls could be deadly; safety gear should be sized to fit.  Projectile toys are for older children—these are the types of toys that can cause serious eye injuries.

Be aware of recalls, but remember that when recalls occur, although firms generally do take steps to remove products from the market, it is impossible to police toys sold at thrift stores, garage sales, and Internet auction sites.  A large variety of recalled toys were found selling individually and in bulk via retail and business-to-businesses sites.

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