Injury Prevention

Trouble in Toyland: Report Highlights Potential Hazards

By: Amy Watkins, MPH

The busy holiday shopping season is once again upon us. While it’s an exciting time of year for children, adults need to be mindful of potential hazards that new toys and electronics can bring. The Trouble in Toyland report, released annually by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, provides excellent guidance when it comes to toy safety during the holidays.

While toys are safer now than in past years and injuries are down, parents and caregivers should still be vigilant when it comes to toy safety and keep the following tips in mind:

Use caution when buying online

Although it is illegal to sell a recalled product, recalled and counterfeit toys can be found online. Only buy from trusted sellers, as counterfeit toys may not meet U.S. safety standards. Know how to look up recalled toys. Recalls are made for a variety of reasons: toys might be toxic or flammable; they could have small parts that pose a choking risk; they could cause a serious cut; they could pose a strangulation risk; or they could cause an injury from a fall. Find recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website. The Trouble in Toyland report contains a full list of recalled toys that U.S. PIRG was able to buy online.

Be aware of age labels

 It is easy to forget the age labels on toys. Parents and caregivers often give toys that are labeled for an older age group to a younger child, which can result in injury. Most often, such toys are not necessarily dangerous when children of the appropriate age group play with them. Be sure each child only has access to toys marked for their age.

Read warning labels

Injuries and deaths have occurred when small children swallow balloons, sleep with stuffed toys, and utilize non-motorized riding toys. These items are typically not dangerous if parents and caregivers adhere to the warning labels on them.

Keep button batteries away from children

Each year, about 1,500 children require medical care after ingesting button batteries. These batteries have the potential to cause serious tissue damage when swallowed.

Avoid toys with high-powered magnets

Federal standards now require magnets that are loose or can come loose from products to be too large to swallow or have a weakened magnetic force. These toys have long had warnings that they are not to be used by children under the age of 14. There are many examples of swallowed magnets causing damage to the intestines that require surgical intervention.

Consider privacy issues when using web-connected toys

A newer threat for parents to watch out for comes from toys that connect to the internet. Web-enabled toys could leave families open to an invasion of privacy with bad actors gaining access to both audio and video recordings or personal data. So, read those terms and conditions, supervise the use of the toy, and make sure it is turned off when not in use.

Access the Trouble in Toyland report here.

Overall, toys are safe and fun for children. Being aware of the possible dangers and being active to prevent them can save a child from injury and even death.

Read more articles on the Advancing Kids Blog about injury prevention.

Amy Watkins, MPH, is the director of Safe Kids Connecticut, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center.

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