Toy Recalls, Defective Toys Require Parents to Be Vigilant

Toy Recalls and dangerous toys are of particular concern to parents.  Yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees that parents—a group who should be among the first to know about dangers to their children—are the last made aware about dangerous toys.  The AAP urges parents to be informed.  Challenging given that this year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 61 dangerous toys involving more than 25 million products.  Toys are undergoing increased reviews which may lead to additional recalls before year-end.

Firms take steps to remove recalled products from market, but it is impossible to police toys sold at thrift stores, garage sales, and Internet auction sites.  Recalls extend to nontoy products and, sometimes, action is not swift.  The death of an 8-month old a year ago prompted the recall of 36,000 racks sold by Jetmax only this month. It took three weeks for the CPSC to pick up a faulty Bassettbaby’s crib for review—nearly 9000 were recalled due to construction flaws posing entrapment and strangulation hazards.  Nearly one million Graco and Simplicity cribs were recalled due to a design flaw resulting in three children’s deaths.  The CPSC was criticized for its handling of the Graco and Simplicity Crib investigation and the Chicago Tribune claims the recall was only issued after the agency learned the paper was going to press about their neglect.  The CPSC has also been harshly criticized for being influenced by the companies it regulates.  Incomprehensively, high-level officials accepted free trips paid for by the industries they were charged to oversee.

Much of what goes into toy shopping is common sense but how can a shopper tell if a toy is lead tainted?  Over six million toys have been recalled due to lead.  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.

The AAP suggests, among other things:  Show children how to use toys.  Avoid toys with loose parts, sharp pieces, choking or strangulation hazards, or loud noises that can damage a child’s hearing.  Read labels and buy age-appropriate items.  Buy non-toxic products—crayons and markers have found their way on the hazardous items list.  Ensure toys and parts are larger than a child’s mouth, nose, and ears.  Soft toys should be washable, have secure seams and edges—small pellets can cause choking or suffocation.  No metal parts for a baby or toddler.  Small batteries are toxic and can cause choking.  Electric toys should be “UL Approved.”  Crib gyms and mobiles are not suitable for children who can push up.  Toy chests should have smooth, finished, nontoxic edges; sturdy lids that remain open in any position and with locking supports; safe hinges that do not pinch skin; and ventilation holes.

Many parents believe a toy is safe if it is on the shelves.  This is not always the case and parents must be vigilant; what appears to be harmless could result in injury.  Despite best efforts, thousands of children suffer toy-related injuries yearly.  By knowing what to look for when buying toys and practicing a few simple ideas for safe use, you can prevent some problems before they occur.

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