Dangerous Toys : Consumer Group Warns Shoppers About Hidden Dangers: Choke Hazards, Noise Hazards, Toxic Chemical Hazards, and Buying Toys on the Internet and in Stores
Hazards posed by toys can still be found on store shelves across the country despite passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act, according to a nationwide survey released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). The annual PIRG report has resulted in over 100 recalls and other enforcement actions in the last 15 years.
While the group's 16th annual survey noted some signs of improvement, in 2000 an estimated 191,000 people went to the emergency room for toy-related injuries. 79% (150,800) were younger than 15 years old. "Toy buyers have to be aware of the serous risks posed by toys with small parts and should avoid this risk by looking out for choke hazards in stores and on the Internet," said Rachel Weintraub, staff attorney at U.S. PIRG and author of Trouble in Toyland. "Consumers must shop smart for toys and know that potential hazards are sitting on store shelves," she added.
The annual PIRG Trouble in Toyland report highlights potential hazards posed by toys found during a survey of stores in October and November. PIRG cautioned consumers about toy hazards in five categories: choking hazards including balloons, toxic chemicals, hearing loss hazards, scooter dangers, and purchasing toys on the Internet. PIRG also identified toys that do not have manufacturer information, which makes it difficult for consumers and government officials to identify and recall unsafe toys.
Choking on small toy parts, balloons and small balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths. According to new data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 207 children died from 1990 to 2000 playing with toys. In 2000, 17 children died playing with toys, 6 of those from choking.
Federal regulations ban any toy that poses a choking hazard because of small parts if it has "play value" for children younger than three. PIRG also warned of the heightened choking hazards associated with small balls. Small balls (from a diameter of 1.25" to 1.75 inches) are banned for sale for children under three.
Fifty-seven children have choked to death on parts of balloons since 1990. PIRG criticized retailers for marketing balloons with familiar toddler images like Winnie the Pooh or with "Baby's First Birthday" messages. In fact, Weintraub noted that balloons have caused more choking deaths than any other toy, and warned that children younger than eight years old should not play with latex balloons.
The group warned consumers of toys containing toxic chemicals known as phthalates that are added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic toys as a softener. The chemicals are linked to liver and kidney damage, are probable human carcinogens, and have already been banned by several European countries in toys for children under three. "Consumers have the right to know about the chemicals that may be in their children's toys and should avoid toys with phthalates for children under five." said Weintraub.
PIRG identified a number of toys that pose hearing loss dangers to children. According to a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 15 percent of children ages 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss. No federal regulations regulate the noise level of toys, but toys with sounds of 85 decibels or over can significantly affect a child's hearing. U.S. PIRG called on Congress and the CPSC to develop noise limitation standards for children's products.
U.S. PIRG also offered tips to consumers about the use of scooters. Between January 2001 and July 2001, the popular scooters were responsible for 68,530 injuries serious enough to require emergency room treatment. About 85% of the injuries were to children younger than 15 years old, with the most common injuries being fractures. CPSC has reports of 11 deaths relating to non-powered scooters so far in 2001. U.S. PIRG recommended the following tips for avoiding scooter injuries: Scooter users should wear proper safety gear including a helmet that meets CPSC's standard, and knee and elbow pads as well as wrist guards, ride scooters only on smooth, paved surfaces without any traffic, and not ride scooters at night.
Online toy sales grew 22 percent in 2000--from $650 million in 1999 to $793 million. The group urged toygivers to be cautious about buying toys on-line. "Internet shoppers should be as informed about the safety of the toys they want to buy as store shoppers. But our study confirmed that Internet shoppers are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to choke hazard warnings," said Weintraub. In an analysis of 44 online toy retailers, PIRG found that not one online retailer posts the CPSC statutory warnings and only three included any safety labeling, and even these are not posted consistently. PIRG urged manufacturers to voluntarily provide Child Safety Protection Act warnings on the web and called on Congress to pass H.R. 604, the Internet Toy Safety Awareness Act, introduced by Representative Thurman (FL), which would make Internet toy labeling mandatory.
"When buying toys, a consumer should do two important things -- think about how a child actually plays with toys and get PIRG's Tips for Toy Safety," Weintraub added. "While most manufacturers comply with the law, toy buyers can not assume that a toy is safe just because a toy is on a store shelf," concluded Weintraub.
|November 20, 2001||Feedback | © Yenra|