Toys That Are Toxic for Children

In light of the holiday season coming up, when 65 percent of annual sales occur, here is a timely warning about toys. As they sit prettily packaged on shelves, youngsters pull at parental heartstrings, pleading to get some. It is vital to keep in mind that many of these are not suitable for the purpose they are meant for entertainment, fun and learning. Some are toxic for children’s health.

Ironically, the very products created for children can be downright dangerous, even lethal. Every year a staggering 149,000 kids land up in emergency rooms, sent there by their innocuous playthings.

Injuries caused by falls total 45.5 percent, collisions account for 22.2 percent, and 10.9 percent occur from swallowing small parts. The terrible twos are peak years for incurring harm, and unsurprisingly, more boys than girls are taken to hospital.

For the last decade and a half, ride-ons such as scooters, wagons, and cars have topped the list of hazardous novelties. But others are just as dangerous potentially.

Parents need guidance, as there is little forewarning of the inherent pitfalls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission generally reacts to problems, not proactively beforehand. While there are established standards, there is inadequate monitoring or enforcement. Easily circumvented loopholes in regulations, while not necessarily out of compliance, can nonetheless pose dangers.

James Swartz, director of the consumer group World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.), which releases an annual list of these unsafe baubles, carries forward the good work started by his late father who founded the organization in the ’70s.

W.A.T.C.H.’s 2014 list includes obvious choices: Zing Air Storm Fire Tek Bow, Radio Flyer Ziggle, Toysmith Catapencil, Junxing Toys SWAT Electronic Machine Gun, Science Wiz Bottle Rocket Party, and Toys R Us True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer.

Baby dolls with removable parts, plush figures with long hair, and pull-alongs with long ropes, all present pitfalls for children. Items made of corrosive chemicals and materials can cause serious, even fatal reactions if ingested.

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund. a public interest nonprofit that inspects and analyses hundreds of toys each year, has concluded that unsafe toys are still available in abundance. This year’s list released on Dec. 1, 2014 enumerates the potentially dangerous toys on store shelves all awaiting the holiday shopping frenzy. Some surprising offenders include rubber ducks, Dora the Explorer backpacks, Hello Kitty accessories, Buckyballs magnets and even a shopping cart play set.

For infants and toddlers the most common occurrences are choking, asphyxiation and toxicity. Toys with magnets if swallowed, can cause ulcers, bowel blockages and severe infections. Long chords or strings are to be avoided at all costs.

Five year-olds and over too often get injured by ride-on toys. A vital precaution is to insist on them wearing helmets while playing with these.

Imitation weapons such as knives, swords, guns and darts pose constant problems with their sharp edges and flying bullets. Toxic toys containing above acceptable levels of lead, chromium and phthalates continue to be a safety concern

Playthings engage the mind, body and spirit of a child. A means to keep them busy and occupied, they are critical elements in learning and behavior development from birth into adulthood. Yet the harmful effects of toys that are toxic negate the positives. Few events are more tragic than a child succumbing to injury, harm or even death through innocent play. It is the responsibility of manufacturers, watch groups and parents to keep informed, and expose children only to those that are that are beneficial learning aids and entertainment sources.

By Bina Joseph

National Journal
Market Watch
U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Photo by CHEJ:The Teamsters – Flickr License

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