Photo: Nova Natural Toy and Craft
By Dan Shapley
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has warned that dangerous and toxic toys are likely still for sale, because government product safety efforts are ineffective.
Tens of millions of toys and other children's products have been recalled in recent months, most because Chinese factories used lead paint. Lead can cause permanent brain damage.
Consumers Union recommends these 12 steps for safe toy shopping:
- Do not buy metal jewelry especially cheap metal jewelry for young children. About 20 percent of childrens metal jewelry has high levels of lead lurking beneath the surface coating. A child who mouths or accidentally swallows a piece of lead-laden jewelry can suffer lead poisoning.
- You can test toys for lead by using a home lead test kit.. Although they may be limited in their use, a positive test result indicates a high likelihood that the product youre testing has lead. Consumer Reports recommends the Lead Check and the Lead Inspector, which performed best in our tests.
- Be careful of toys with magnets. Many toys have small magnets that can fall out and, if swallowed, can cause serious health problems that are hard to diagnose. Dont buy toys with magnetic parts that are small enough to be swallowed.
- If you find loose, small magnets anywhere around the house, track down the source. Immediately take the product and any of its other magnetic components away from your child and contact the manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov.
- Avoid no-name products and be careful of toys purchased at dollar stores, street fairs, vending machines, thrift stores, or yard sales.
- Stay away from permanent paints and markers when purchasing arts and crafts materials. Look for water-based paints and glues. For a child under three years old, purchase age-appropriate material that your child cant swallow.
- Look for the age grading on toy packages and purchase only age-appropriate toys for your child. The age grading not only relates to play value but also to safety.
- Use common sense; some toys may be inappropriate for your toddlers and babies. Toys labeled for children 3 and over may have small parts that can be a choking hazard for children under 3 years old. If you have children under 3 dont buy a toy with this warning label.
- Do your own safety check to determine if your childs toys are choking hazards for young children. If his or her toy fits through a toilet-paper tube, it is a potential choking hazard. The government-approved test for choking hazards is done with a smaller tube. The more stringent toilet-paper tube test helps you keep questionable toys out of your childs hands and mouth.
- Beware of toys that can be broken into smaller pieces such as chalk, crayons, or caps from markers. They can pose choking hazards to toddlers and babies.
- Use caution when children play with small balls, tricycles, and balloons. These three products are the leading causes of death attributed to toys. Balls less than 1-3/4 inches in diameter can pose a choking hazard to young children. Balloons were associated with more than 110 deaths since 1973. Children can suffocate while trying to blow up a balloon or while chewing on or sucking a balloon.
- Before you shop, check recent toy recalls at www.notinmycart.org or
www.recalls.gov. You can also sign up for automatic recall notifications at www.cpsc.gov.