By Michael Crivier, General Leonard Wood Army Community HospitalDecember 17, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Those who can't resist impulse shopping should remember to look for new hidden dangers, especially during last-minute holiday shopping.
Just reading these words is a great start to your pre-buying research.
Many consumers shop under the false assumption that toys purchased from big-name manufacturers and retailers are not dangerous.
In fact, seeing a familiar name on a package can lead to a false sense of security that the toy is safe.
Toys recommended for older children may be hazardous in the hands of a younger child. Toy shoppers should physically examine toys and read all the warnings and labels prior to purchase.
There are particular categories of toys that are problematic, and many other hazards out there, including toys that can cause blunt impact injuries, burns, suffocation, and become ingestion hazards. For children under the age of 3, of course, avoid toys with small parts which can cause choking.
More children have suffocated on deflated balloons and pieces of broken balloons than on any other type of toy. Balloons, when deflated or broken, can choke or suffocate a child.
Riding toys, scooters, skateboards, and in-line skates increase danger due to speed of impact involved when falls occur. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and sized to fit. For children younger than 15, non-motorized scooters continue to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries.
High powered magnet sets, and other play sets with small magnets, are dangerous and should be kept away from children under the age of 14. The potential is for serious abdominal injuries when the magnets are ingested and attach to each other within the body.
Battery charging should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. It's very important to pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers as some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.
Toy safety considerations for electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over eight years old. Children should be taught to use electric toys properly, cautiously and under adult supervision.
Electric toys that are improperly constructed, wired or misused can shock or burn. These toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface temperatures, electrical construction, and display prominent warning labels indicating such.
Officials believe that cheap and shoddily-made imported toys are the cause of many injuries of this nature.
Infant toys, such as rattles, squeeze toys and teethers, should be large enough so that they cannot enter and become lodged in an infant's throat.
Federal customs and consumer protection officials have intercepted more than 2 million dangerous toys this year at U.S. ports. Toys from overseas manufacturers are routinely blocked from entering the country if they can be hazardous to a child. Some contain dangerously high levels of lead, while others have sharp edges or contain small parts that can cause choking.
Recently, authorities intercepted more than 3,000 toy guns from China. Testing revealed that all had excessive levels of lead. In Jacksonville, Fla., authorities also found toy cars with lead contamination at levels high enough to do long-lasting harm to a child.
Dangerous toys still kill some American children every year.
Last year, a majority of toy-related fatalities were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. They included children choking on balloons and drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool.
Year after year, many of the same hazards reappear. Some of the most common hazards that crop up every year are the result of defective design and manufacturing that often leads to sharp edges that can cause lacerations, small pieces that can break off posing a choking hazard, projectiles that can injure eyes, and strings that can cause strangulation.
Thirteen children younger than age 15 died in toy-related deaths in 2011, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That is down from 19 fatalities in 2010 and 17 reported in 2009.
Let's continue that trend this year.
In addition to preplanning as you shop, keep an eye on children after the wrapping paper is torn away and they're off having fun creating new memories.
Once gifts are open, immediately discard plastic wrapping or other toy packaging before they can become dangerous play things as well.
Finally, remember to follow the toy manufacturer's age recommendations in the first place and keep toys designed for older children out of the hands of younger ones.
Tragically, a joyous holiday storyline can take a horrifying turn without proper supervision. Every year, children are found with their new tricycles at the bottom of a swimming pool.
The CPSC estimated that 193,200 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries to children younger than age 15 occurred in 2011. Many of these incidents were associated with, or caused by, a toy intended to provide hours of fun and great holiday memories.
Safety in mind while shopping for toys children have been dreaming about all season can help ensure this year's toy stories have happy endings.
Memories last a lifetime. Be diligent and ensure that your memories this season are good ones.
We're committed to patient care and safety. For more information, contact the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Safety Office at 573-596-0131, ext. 6-9471.
(Editor's Note: Michael Crivier is the safety officer at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.)