PIRG: Tips for Toy Safety
How can parents be sure that a toy is safe? It is not always easy to tell. Some safety standards -- like the prohibition of the use of lead paint, or insulation standards for electric toys -- are not always apparent to the eye. Most toys are packaged in ways that make it difficult for the purchaser to check. And most consumers just do not know what to look out for when toy shopping.
When purchasing toys for young children, consumers should check for small parts that may choke or cords that may strangle. And while PIRG advocacy focuses on toys with small parts, parents should beware of toys with other types of hazards as well. Toys with small parts, small balls and marbles are banned for sale if intended for children under 3. If intended for older children, these toys, and balloons, must include a choke hazard warning. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act requires the following warning on toys intended for children 3-6 years old, that contain small parts:
Warning: CHOKING HAZARD: Small Parts. Not For Children Under 3.
Toys with Small Parts: Get a "no-choke testing tube" at better toy stores. To see if a toy or toy part is potentially dangerous because of its size, place it -- without compressing it -- into the tube. If it fits entirely within the tube in any orientation, it should not get into the hands of children under the age of three and others who still put things in their mouths. If you are unsure of the durability of a toy that may break into small parts, don't buy it! And be wary of bin toys, without packages. Bins in any toy store, and especially in "dollar stores" and low-price drug stores are where many choking hazards are found.
Balloons: Balloons are the leading toy killer. Always supervise children with balloons, inflated or not. Keep balloons away from children under 8. Remember, if a balloon bursts while a child is blowing it up, it could be inhaled. PIRG believes balloons labeled ãBabyâs First Birthdayä or with cartoon figures attractive to toddlers, e.g., Barney, are particularly inappropriate.
Small Balls and Marbles and Ball-like Objects: Children as old as 5 have choked to death on small balls and marbles as large as 1.75 inches. Be careful of ball-like beads and other round objects. Small balls intended for children under 3 must be larger than 1.75 inches, since 1995. However, ball-like objects, such as round fruit and vegetable toys, which pose the same hazards as balls, are NOT subject to the more stringent small ball tester but instead to the easier choke test cylinder.
Crib toys: Examine crib toys for possible strangulation hazards, look at the labeling of the toy and at the length of any cords or strings. Crib gyms (toys that are stretched across the crib) should always be removed from the crib when babies can get up on hands and knees (5 months old). Crib toys should not have cords or strings longer than 6".
Strangulation Hazards: Strings, cords, and necklaces can strangle infants. Infant toys that include cords can present a strangulation hazard if the cord is put around an infant's neck.
Projectiles: Can lacerate skin or blind or deafen a child who is struck in the eye or ear. The CPSC has recalled a number of cheap winged flying dolls and action figures that catapult off hand held launchers. PIRG has received complaints of eye injuries caused by rocket toys intended for 3-6 year olds.
Other Regulations: Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), the CPSC regulates certain toys and other children's articles. Manufacturers must manufacture their products to meet these regulations. CPSC regulations address numerous other toy-related hazards:
PHTHALATE CONTAINING POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC) TOYS: Recently, several European countries have banned the use of these toxic chemicals -- which are linked to liver and kidney problems and are probable human carcinogens -- for use in teething toys intended for children under 3. Some toy companies, such as Mattel, are phasing out their use. PIRG strongly believes that parents should not expose their children to toxic phthalate chemicals in any toy. Unfortunately, no law requires disclosure ö and many toys made of PVC are labeled ãnon-toxic.ä For a list of alternates to toxic phthalate toys provided by Greenpeace, contact us.
TO CONTACT PIRG: Call 202-546-9707, or write:
PIRG 218 D St SE Washington, DC 20003
Our general email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TO REPORT A TOY HAZARD OR OTHER PRODUCT SAFETY HAZARD CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC): 1-800-638-2772.
©1999 Public Interest Research Groups