Assume the Worst! Expect the child to use the toy in the most dangerous way possible. You won't always be there. The child will dismantle the toy and put the smallest or most toxic part in his mouth.
Watch for Small Parts! The child will try to swallow and could choke on marbles, balloons, small dolls, blocks, etc. They will rip off small parts from larger toys.
Toilet Test New Toys! Take an empty toilet tissue roll when you go toy shopping. Try to drop any new toy that you like through the roll. If the toy falls freely, it is a choking hazard.
Use Common Sense! Toys that are not dangerous for older children may be deadly for your baby, toddler or small child. Educate your older children as to these hazards and monitor your children carefully.
Dangerous Toys on the Market
To buy or not to buy! You stand in the toy store, eyeing the shelves for a gift for your toddler. A label on the package you choose reads: Intended for Children Over 3 Years of Age. Did you look down at your bright and able two-year old and buy the toy anyway? You may believe, like many consumers, that you were being told that some children younger than three may lack the intellectual development or manual dexterity to use the toy. If so, you have been dangerously mislead.
Labels also may be used to protect manufacturers in injury lawsuits, especially when the contain warnings such as "Use only under parental supervision" or "Safe for up to 200 uses". Unless you can be sure that an adult will observe every second of a child's use of a toy, buyers should be particularly wary of toys with such labels.
What that label is supposed to do is warn you that the toy or its parts present a choking risk to your small child. But the label doesn't say that, and under current law, it doesn't have to. According to the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Competitiveness, Rep. Cardiss Collins, at least 146 children under the age of three have choked to death in the U.S. over the last decade when they swallowed either all or parts of their toys. However, neither the toy industry itself nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency whose job it is to protect children from unsafe products, has yet to place warning labels on toys which will be clear to those who buy them.
Some toys should not even be on the market, warning label or no warning label. Each year, toys result in more than 150,000 reported injuries requiring hospitalization or emergency room treatment and dozens of deaths to children. Never assume that a children's toy is safe simply because it is being sold in a reputable toy store.
Nor should you assume that the government has passed on the safety of those toys. More than 99% of the toys available in toy stores, many of them imported from other countries, have not been tested by the government. Of the less than 1% tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1 in 6 is found to be unsafe! When purchasing a toy, you must take a good, hard look at what you will be placing in your child's hands.
There are many good, safe toys available in toy stores. American consumers, unfortunately, are not given sufficient warnings or adequate information to evaluate the toys that they purchase for their children.
Indications of Unsafe Toys
Toys that look good to eat. Some toys are meant to look, smell or taste like food. Scented markers, erasers or doll accessories invite your child to put the toy in his mouth.
Toys with cords or chains. A toy that has a rope, chain, string, elastic band or other cord that is long enough to encircle your child's neck pose a threat of strangulation. Even if the cord is retractable, the toy is dangerous.
Toys painted with lead paint. Check for labels indicating presence of any lead in painted toys. Discard older painted toys that were manufactured before current lead standards were in effect.
Toys that are flammable. Unlike England, Australia and much of Europe, there are government flammability standards in the U.S. for children's clothes but not for toys. Be particularly careful when buying sleeping bags and comforters which may be used when camping.
Baby furniture and car seats. When borrowing or buying baby furniture such as cribs, high chairs, walkers, playpens, cradle swings, etc., check to see if the particular product has had safety problems.
If you have more questions about toy safety
When in doubt, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission hotline at 1-800-638-2772.to see if a toy has safety problems. When you do, be patient and make sure that you have the manufacturer, model and year of manufacture. You can obtain Consumer Product Safety Commission publications by writing to: Publication Requests, CPS Washington, DC 20207.
If you, your children or someone you know has been injured or killed because of an unsafe toy contact the unsafe toy lawyers at Anapol Schwartz can assist you in evaluating your case and may seek damages from the responsible party for the injury; which is sometimes the manufacturer, designer or the installer.
Larry Coben Discusses Toy Safety on Fox 29, 11/13
Larry Coben discusses seat back failures on NBC 10, 11/23