December 14, 2004
'Tis the season for safe holiday toy buying
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As the hunt for the season’s most popular toys heats up, Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges shoppers to make sure that today’s must-haves aren’t a menace to children.
The hottest toys change each season and new toys can bring new safety issues to light, said Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist’s statewide injury prevention program.
"The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 140,700 children visited hospital emergency rooms last year for toy-related injuries,” Fairburn said. “Seventeen children died, six from scooter related accidents and five from choking on toy balls.”
Fairburn said most toys are labeled with safety advisories—such as ‘not suitable for children under age 3’—and it’s important to follow those guidelines. Also consider whether the toy is suitable for the abilities, skills and interest level of the gift recipient. Toys that are too advanced for a child may be potentially dangerous.
Look for stuffed toys and dolls that are flame resistant, washable and hygienic, Fairburn said. And if you plan to purchase in-line skates, scooters, bicycles or skateboards, she advises providing the gift recipient with a helmet, as well.
“Wearing bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent,” Fairburn said.
Also be sure to include protective eye gear and pads with sporting equipment, cautioned Gates. “There are approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries every year and 90 percent could have been prevented with protective gear.”
Gates recommends that consumers be on the lookout for toy and product recalls, and to not assume the manufacturer will notify them of problems. Information on the latest recalls from federal agencies can be found at www.recalls.gov.
Safety tips this Christmas include:
- Avoid giving toys with small parts that might choke infants and toddlers.
- Include a helmet and other protective gear when giving a riding toy. For in-line skates, bikes, scooters, roller skates or skateboards, a helmet is a necessity, not an accessory.
- Give reflective clothing, stickers or bike reflectors to help ensure riders are visible at night.
- Give a horn or bell as a stocking stuffer. A horn or bell is essential for bicyclists to warn motorists and pedestrians of their presence.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and avoid electric toys with heating elements for children under age 8.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation.
- Make sure plush toys have tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts.