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Avoiding Hazardous Toys

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Report: Hazardous toys to avoid this holiday season

FRIDAY, Nov. 29 (BabyCenter News) - Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, says a toy safety report released last week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

The group's 21st annual "Trouble in Toyland" report provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards and offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 73,000 children under the age of 5 were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available. Twenty of those children died.

"Even one toy-related death is too many, because these deaths are preventable," said U.S. PIRG Research Director Alison Cassady in a prepared statement.

The "Trouble in Toyland" report warns consumers about four categories of toy dangers: choking hazards, powerful magnets, lead, and strangulation hazards.

Choking hazards

In its research, U.S. PIRG found toys for sale with small parts for children under 3 and under 6 without the required choke hazard warning. This is despite the CPSC's 1979 ban of the sale of toys for children under 3 if they contain small parts, and 1994's Child Safety Protection Act, which required an explicit choke hazard warning on toys with small parts for children between 3 and 6.

Children continue to choke on toys that meet the letter of the law. In September, Playskool recalled the Team Talkin' Tool Bench after two children suffocated when the toy's oversized plastic nails became lodged in their throats. U.S. PIRG found several toys on store shelves that have parts shaped like corks or these toy nails that could pose similar suffocation hazards.

Magnetic toys

Toymakers have started using powerful magnets in building toys and magnetic jewelry. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract each other inside the body and cause a bowel obstruction or life-threatening tear in the intestines.

A little boy died last Thanksgiving and many others have had life-saving surgery after swallowing magnets from MEGA Brands' Magnetix toys. MEGA Brands has modified the design of Magnetix and placed a label on the toy's packaging warning parents about the dangers of magnets.

U.S. PIRG has called on CPSC to require a warning label on all magnetic toys that tells parents to seek immediate medical attention if a child swallows magnets.

Lead in jewelry

Children exposed to lead can suffer delayed mental and physical development or even death. In February, a 4-year-old died of lead poisoning after he swallowed a bracelet charm that contained 99 percent lead. U.S. PIRG researchers went to just a few stores and easily found four items of children's jewelry that contain high levels of lead, ranging from 1.8 percent lead to 34 percent lead by weight.

"We've known for decades that lead poses serious health risks to children, so it's unacceptable that consumers can still find lead-laden children's jewelry on store shelves," said Cassady.

Strangulation hazards

Cords and elastics attached to toys can hurt children by wrapping around their neck or other body part and causing strangulation or cutting off blood flow.

One toy in particular that's caused problems in recent years is the water yo-yo: a liquid-filled ball at the end of a stretchy cord. Last month, a 5-year-old Bellevue, Washington boy almost suffocated when the toy's cord wrapped tightly around his neck several times. CPSC has recorded about 400 injuries to the eyes, face and neck since the water yo-yo ball came on the market three years ago.

"CPSC should not wait until a child dies to protect children from the dangers posed by playing with this toy," said Cassady. Her group is asking the CPSC to ban the water yo-yo immediately.

Cassady reminded parents that the toy list in the U.S. PIRG report is only a sampling of the potential hazards on store shelves.

"Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before they make a purchase this holiday season," she said.

(Author: Jenny Des Jarlais, BabyCenter News)

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