Toy manufacturers and government entities impose strict regulations on toy safety production for the protection of the consumer and also for the protection of toy retailers. One federal agency, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), has the authority to recall defective products used by the general public, including toys, games and children’s items.
The CPSC recalls toys for numerous reasons, especially if quality tests prove the toy(s) to be defective or hazardous to children. There must be certain federal safety standards implemented during the toy manufacturing stage – even before the toys are released for consumer purchasing, and especially before they appear on the store’s toy shelves.
There are criteria that toys must adhere to before they are deemed acceptable and available to the public. Numerous toy-related injuries occur when the toys are not used properly, or when they are used outside of their intended audience. These criteria are generally broken down into age appropriate groups or learning levels and capabilities of the child. For instance, while one toy may have a warning label that reads “not intended for children under 3”, another warning label may read, “only use this product with adult supervision.” These warnings can apply to anything from teething rings and rattlers for infants, to scientific toys and games that involve chemicals or hazardous materials.
For parents and consumers to be certain of a toy’s safety and to practice safe procedures when handling toys, certain practices should be followed:
1. Frequently check the CPSC website for toy recalls. Their site will show a comprehensive listing of toy products that have potential problems or a danger to children. Sign up for their email newsletter to receive periodic updates as necessary.
2. Check the label on the toy product for a percentage indication of lead paint. There should be a low level (if any at all) in the product. The CPSC recommends using lead check and lead inspector kits (available for consumer purchase) for lead toxins in the toy(s).
3. Ensure that the toy is not ingestible for young infants. Pull, pop and tug on the toy parts to see if they disconnect easily. If they do, that usually means the part(s) will also come loose for the child. This can become a serious choking hazard if the infant puts the part(s) in their mouths.
4. Make sure to research the product to see if it is “phthalate-free.” Phthalate is a class of chemicals that are used in manufacturing infant teething rings to soften them. This chemical has been linked to several health issues, including a suspicion of adult obesity and early onset puberty in adolescents.
5. Steer clear of toys that are not labeled, those that are missing parts, or purchased from street vendors or dime stores. These toys are generally sold “as-is” and are defective products that were not accepted for sale by retailers because of their potential harm.
6. Check the product for sharp surfaces or parts, including jagged, uneven edges, holes and openings. Inspect the toy to see if any part can injure the child’s eyes, ears, nose or any body part.
7. Ensure that the toy is accompanied by proper contact information for the manufacturer or the toy retailer. Fill out any paperwork requests to be notified in cases of recalls. This information can be in the form of a business reply card, a flyer, or a sticker attached to the product.
8. Avoid toys that have long cords or ropes as a part of its assembly. These are extremely hazardous to a child and can cause choking and strangulation.
9. When buying toys that have chemical solutions (as in scientific games), be sure to keep a fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies. Also have emergency phone numbers available, including Poison Control Centers, local hospitals, and the fire department. Ensure that these types of games are properly adult supervised.
10. Avoid toys that contain magnets. If consumed, a magnet or magnetic material can be hazardous to the human body. If the toy’s magnet piece is completely covered and undetectable, there is a possibility that the child will be safe. To be on the safe side, avoid the toy and eliminate any possibilities.
- Toy-related injuries: Find out information about toy-related injuries, what to look for, and how to avoid injuries in children.
- Toy Recalls: This government site provides information on current toy product recalls, both mandatory and voluntary, by manufacturers and toy retailers.
- Toxic Toys: A consumer’s guide to the toxic chemical makeup in toys and toy products. They list information on how to detect toxic chemicals, and have products that the consumer can purchase that will show them how to detect toxins.
- Consumer Reports: The Consumer Reports Buying Guide on toy safety, age-appropriate products, and toy-related news.
- Consumer Products Safety Commission: The CPSC lists certain criteria and standards that toy manufacturers and retailers must follow for their product to be available to the general public.