December 5, 2003

Group releases dangerous toy list

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Jill Johnson of U.S. PIRG gives advice on safe toy buying at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Dana Johnson

Group releases dangerous toy list

When checking off your list of toys for this year’s gift giving season, make sure safety is at the top.

With just 19 shopping days left before Christmas, gift-givers must be very cautious when throwing just any toy into the shopping cart, say representatives from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

In 1994 the Child Safety Protection Act was enacted, which requires specific warnings on toys with small parts or small balls for children younger than 6. Despite its passage, store shelves continue to be stocked with hazardous toys, according to the group.

PIRG focused on four toy dangers:

• Toys that pose hazards

• Toys that are dangerously loud

• Toys that pose strangulation hazards

• Toys that contain toxic chemicals

Last year, more than 212,000 people sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms because of toy-related injuries.

“One-third of those injuries involved those under the age of 5 years old,” said Jill Johnson, southeast field director for U.S. PIRG. “Thirteen children died from toy-related injuries in 2002,” she said.

For 18 years, PIRG has announced the toys that are not meeting the safety guidelines. And since then, Johnson said there has been a marked decline in hazardous toys. But there are tips child advocates say should be followed when purchasing toys:

• Do not buy small toys or items for children

• Use a toilet paper roll, the approximate size of a choke-test cylinder, to determine the safety of small toys.

• Read warning labels

• Keep toys for older children away from younger ones

• Never give young children balloons or small balls

• Latex balloons should never be given to a child younger than 8 years old

• Use your own ears as a guide

• Remove batteries or tape over the speakers

• Purchase toys labeled non-toxic

• Consider the developmental age of child

• Don’t buy a toy expecting a child to grow into it

• Supervise children

“We see many, many children at VCH with injuries which are preventable,” said Dr. Veronica L. Gunn, MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics. “Caregivers must be attentive to the developmental age of a child and the age appropriateness of a toy for a specific child.

“Just because a label says age 5 plus, doesn’t mean it’s right for every five-year-old to 8-year-old. It depends on the development of the child. Be sensible when choosing the right gift.”