Every holiday shopping season, devoted parents feverishly embark on a quest to buy their children the perfect toy. What they do not always realize is that the “perfect toy” may not be a safe one for their child.
Indeed, in 2012, there were 265,000 children treated in emergency rooms for toyrelated injuries and there were 11 toy-related deaths in children under the age of 12, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The greatest number of fatalities were caused by drowning or asphyxiation. Big wheels are driven into pools that are not enclosed by a safety fence. Infants drown in portable pools that are left unattended in backyards. Children swallow small toy parts or marbles that cause them to choke or small magnets that create holes in their intestines. Toy trunks with free-falling heavy wooden lids frighteningly collapse on a child’s head.
Unfortunately, potentially fatal incidents such as these, and thousands more involving serious injuries to children, happen each year.
What can parents do to prevent such tragedies and protect their kids from harm?
Product liability attorney, Robert Boyers, a founding partner of Miami law firm, Hannon & Boyers, recommends that “first and foremost, parents should educate themselves about toys that are recurrently causing injury or are being recalled due to dangerous defects, so that a horrible history does not repeat itself with your child.” Recall and safety warning information is available at www.safekids.org and www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.
His partner, James Hannon, adds that defective toys that may otherwise be dangerous can and should be repaired and made safe, if possible, or should be immediately returned or discarded.
Toy safety expert, Carol Pollack-Nelson, PhD, who is the past-president of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization, offers additional critical guidance for parents during this holiday season:
• Read consumer toy reviews on line.
• Follow the age grades for toys on packaging but know your child’s level of development. If they are still mouthing at 4 or 5, then they should not use toys intended for children younger than 3 years that contain small parts and pose a choking hazard.
• Decorate with Mylar not latex balloons. Deflated latex balloons and balloon pieces present a serious choking and asphyxiation hazard.
• Do not store your older child’s toys in a chest or bin used by your younger child so as to prevent unsafe access to age-inappropriate toys and don’t use a chest with a free-falling lid. Storage units for children’s toys require a safety hinge.
• Small “coin” or “button cell” and other batteries can pose a serious danger of causing internal chemical burns if ingested. Make sure all battery compartments remain securely closed.
• Jewelry and toys with strings or cords that go around a neck (guitar straps and binoculars) should have “break-away” cords.
• Ride-on toys should only be used in your yard or on a sidewalk and never in the street.
• Wheeled toys (bikes, scooters, skateboards and rollerblades) should always be used with protective gear such as proper fitting helmets and padding for arms and legs.
• Portable pools, like in-ground pools, are a lure to young children. Prevent access to the water by ALWAYS removing the ladder — even if you are going inside only for a brief time. Even better, purchase a ladder with a ladder-lock and use it every time you leave the pool.
• On trampolines: one child at a time, have pads on all springs and keep nylon enclosures zipped tightly shut.
• Finally, stay away from ATV’s. The CPSC reported that in 2012, at least 54 children died and over 26,000 required emergency room treatment as a result of riding an ATV.
Robert Boyers and James Hannon are the co-founders of Florida trial law firm Hannon & Boyers, which represents victims in personal injury and product liability matters. They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.