2007-05-18 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer Children's toys are safer than ever thanks to the diligent work of product safety advocates, state legislatures, parents, and government regulators. Despite the advances that have been made over the past decades, it is as important as ever to stay vigilant about the possible dangers posed by certain toys. When shopping for toys, especially those intended for younger children, consumers should consider all warnings or age recommendations provided and examine the toy carefully for potential safety hazards. Three common hazards that parents should look out for toys that pose the threat of choking, strangulation, and excessive noise.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, choking is the leading cause of toy-related deaths of young children. To help prevent these deaths, packages of balls, balloons, marbles, and other toys and games intended for children at least three years of age are required to have labels warning against choking hazards. As a rule, toys designed for children three and older should be kept away from infants and young toddlers. In addition to avoiding toys with small parts, parents should examine toys for parts that do not appear to be removable, but may come off in the hands of a determined child. Some toys break more easily than others, and the resulting pieces can be small enough to be swallowed. Parents can protect children by heeding warnings and thoroughly examining toys for potential choking hazards.

Some toys present strangulation hazards. One such toy is the yo-yo waterball. These toys consist of a liquid-filled ball on an elastic cord with a small finger loop at the end that allows children to throw the ball, stretch the cord and bounce it back like a yo-yo. Since its emergence in 2003, consumer safety agencies around the world have received numerous complaints from parents reporting strangulation injuries involving the toy. Many of the reported injuries occurred when the toy's elastic cord became wrapped around the child's neck after they had been twirling it above their head. In order to protect children from this dangerous toy, the Assembly passed legislation (A.472) that would prohibit the sale, import, manufacture, or distribution of yo-yo waterball toys. Many retailers have voluntarily pulled yo-yo waterballs from their shelves; however thousands of these toys have been sold. Parents are advised to cut the cord off the toy (leaving a squishy ball for children to play with) or throw the toy away. Parents should be wary of any toys that have cords or strings that could become wrapped around a child's neck.

Another concern is the level of noise produced by some toys. Toy manufacturers know that loud sounds are a very effective way to gain and hold a child's interest. The level of sound produced by some toys may be too high for children's ears. The fact that small children often hold toys closer to their bodies, particularly their heads, increases the potential for hearing damage. Be careful when allowing children to play with toys that emit loud noises. If a loud toy is a favorite, try limiting the time your child plays with it per day.

The federal government has set up an easy-to-use website to alert consumers to unsafe, hazardous, or defective products. You can find the site at: http://www.recalls.gov /. This site contains the latest recall information and important safety tips, as well as a form for reporting dangerous toys. You may also want to visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website at: http://www.cpsc.gov/ to obtain important recall information and product safety news.

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