Keeping kids safe from hazardous toys during the holidays


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Toy injuries resulted in 185,000 visits to the emergency room and 11 deaths among children under the age of 15 in 2015, according to a report (PDF) released Thursday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Cuts and bruises were the most common injuries, and the head and the face were the most affected areas of the body. Riding toys, specifically non-motorized scooters, were responsible for 45% of the toy-related deaths.

The report comes just in time for the holiday shopping season. “We want consumers to enjoy their time, with holiday gifts being a source of joy rather than a source of pain,” Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Nikki Fleming said.

The safety commission and US Customs and Border Protection say they want to keep hazardous toys out of kids’ hands and create a safer marketplace for consumers. They work together to find and detain shipments of toys and other children’s products that fail to meet federal safety standards. They also work with counterpart organizations abroad to ensure safety standards are being met.

More than 8 million hazardous units have been stopped over the past four years, according to the agencies.

Toys are also recalled for defects that could cause choking or pose any risk of mechanical hazards, fire hazards or injuries to a child. The number of toy recalls has declined from 172 in 2008 to 24 so far in 2016 in part because of stricter standards and enforcement.

Consumers can also contribute to children’s safety, Fleming said. “We want consumers to take safety precautions to avoid ending up in an emergency room this holiday.”

“What is really important is for everyone to understand you can’t be safe 100% the time,” said Dr. Kristin Harkin, a spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Be a good label reader and choose age-appropriate toys. “Making sure the age is appropriate is really key. I’ve seen toys going to unexpected places: up one’s nose, in ears,” Harkin said.

Include safety gear when you buy riding toys.

Use toys in the right environment. “A ball in the living room is probably not the right environment, as opposed to a playroom,” said Harkin.

Watch out for hidden dangers such as balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than 8, and discard torn balloons. “They can put them in their mouth, which would cause them to choke,” Fleming said.

Beware of batteries. Battery charging should always be supervised by adults because chargers and adapters can burn. Harkin warned that small batteries are especially dangerous. “Infants and toddlers may consume them. They’re the size of an M&M, so it will be very easy for children to confuse them with candies,” she said.

Pay close attention to instructions. “If a toy is not properly constructed, before someone has a moment to enjoy it, often something unexpected occurs,” Harkin said.

Stay informed on toy recalls. “Check your existing toys to see if they have been recalled or broken,” Fleming said.

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