Toy safety – make a list and check it twice

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Ralphie’s dream of getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” has become the stuff of legend. The constant refrain of “you’ll shoot your eye out” torments the young protagonist and gives viewers a good laugh.

But toy safety is a serious matter, especially at this time of year. According to the non-profit toy safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.), a child is treated in U.S. emergency rooms every three minutes for a toy-related injury.

Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission show there were an estimated 240,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2016, and a reported 35 children died from toy-related incidents from 2014 to 2016. So, what can we do to keep children safe?

For starters, W.A.T.C.H. releases its Top 10 Worst Toys List before the holiday shopping season to help consumers avoid some of the most dangerous toys on the market. Prevent Blindness America also declares each December Safe Toys and Gifts Month. Although its primary focus is protecting children’s eyesight, Prevent Blindness America has a Safe Toy Checklist that generally applies to toy selection. Prevent Blindness America suggests doing the following before purchasing a toy.

  • Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
  • Ask yourself if the toy is right for your child’s ability and age.
  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods or dangerous edges.
  • Check the lenses and frames of children’s sunglasses; many can break and cause injuries.
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Remember that BB guns are NOT toys (sorry Ralphie).

W.A.T.C.H. says with online sales expected to surge 17 to 22 percent this 2018 holiday season, parents face the disadvantage of not being able to touch and physically inspect a toy and its packaging for warning signs of obvious hazards at the time of purchase. Also, consumer-to-consumer (i.e. “second-hand”) online sales provide additional opportunities for the purchase of recalled toys and toys with proven defects.

Since there currently is no full-proof safety net in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching consumers, W.A.T.C.H.  urges parents to think defensively when it comes to toy safety this holiday season. Parents can avoid many toy-related hazards by:

  • Remaining cautious.
  • Identifying safety red flags.
  • Knowing what classic safety traps to look out for.
  • Inspecting new and old toys for defects and poor design.
  • Learning to identify hidden hazards.

W.A.T.C.H. also cautions toy shoppers not to be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe because it has a familiar brand name on the package or it’s available from a well-known retailer.

Using these tips will help keep the kiddos safe and happy this holiday season. Not giving them a “deranged Easter Bunny” suit is also a good plan.

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