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Florida Parents can Help Avoid Product Liability Problems by Choosing Safe Toys

Toys help a child develop and of course are fun. That’s why parents each year spend billions of dollars on the toy industry, which produces hundreds of new toys each month. However, each year toys cause injuries, from broken limbs to cuts to burn injuries. Choking is a key toy-related injury for children ages 3 or younger. In recent months, parents have been worried following massive recalls of Chinese-made toys.

Manufacturers try to help parents by labelling toys for specific age groups and by providing guidelines for play. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also helps parents by monitoring and regulating the toys that are sold in this country. In fact, toys sold in the US after1995 are required to comply with strict CPSC standards. Despite all these precautions, however, toy-related injuries can still happen. In some cases, dangers are not realized until after children are already injured. The CPSC and other experts agree that parents can help protect their children by:

1) Shopping smart. If you are buying your child a fabric toy, look for a label that identifies the toy as flame resistant or flame retardant. This can help prevent burn injuries. Make sure that any stuffed toys you buy are washable. Toys that are washed regularly have less bacteria and germs. If you are purchasing a painted toy, read the label to ensure that the item is painted with lead-free paint. Any art materials you purchase should be clearly labelled as non-toxic. In fact, any paints or crayons you buy should have been tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials and should be labelled with “ASTM D-4236” on the package.

2) Buy new toys only. Heirloom toys can contain lead paint and older toys may not meet today’s safety standards. Even newer used toys may be so worn from play that they can break. If there are some toys that have sentimental value, keep them as collectibles for later enjoyment – just do not let your child play with them.

3) Test the loudness of squeak toys, rattles, musical toys, and child electronics. Some of these toys are loud enough to cause hearing damage – especially if a child holds the toy up to their ear during play.

4) Buy age-appropriate toys. Toys intended for older children may be dangerous to a younger child. Age labels are not guidelines for intelligence or maturity – they measure safety. The toy for a 4-year-old will not help your 3-year-old develop more quickly – and may be dangerous.

5) Be especially cautious when buying a toy for a child 3 years of age or younger. Choking is a leading hazard for this age group, so purchase a small-parts tester, commonly called a choke tube. Any toy that can fit in the tube is too small for your child. When buying toys for children in this age group, look for toys that will not pull apart even under hard play. Toys for this age group should have no sharp edges, cords or long strings. Look for items that are made from one piece of material, so that there are no smaller parts that can break off.

6) Check toys regularly. Even safe toys can become unsafe when they break or wear down. Periodically check your child’s toy box. Clean all toys frequently and check for splinters, breaks, and other signs of damage. Broken or damaged toys must be replaced immediately or repaired at once. Check the CPSC website or regularly to read about toy recalls. If you notice an unsafe toy, report it at once and do not allow your child to play with it.

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