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Avoiding Toy Hazards: What to look out for while holiday shopping

This year OSPIRG, a consumer protection watchdog organization, released their 31st annual toy safety report, Trouble in Toyland, highlighting toy hazards on store shelves this holiday season. The report notes five common toy hazards that cause thousands of injuries to children each year: choking hazards, toxic hazards, ingestion hazards, fire hazards and laceration hazards.

Choking is the leading cause of toy-related deaths. Children under three can choke on small pieces that are less than 1.75 inches in diameter. Balloons are of particular concern because they can easily be inhaled when children attempt to inflate them.

OSPIRG notes that some toys pose toxic hazards to children from lead, chromium and phthalates, a chemical used to make plastics both stronger and more flexible. These chemicals can cause allergic reactions, and have been found to cause cognitive deficits, such as lack of attentiveness, when children come into sustained contact with them.

Toys with magnets often cause life threatening injuries if they are swallowed. In extreme cases, they have been known to tear children’s intestinal walls. The report also cautions parents on hoverboard purchases, which have lithium-ion battery packs that can overheat and catch fire. 500,000 hoverboards were recalled earlier this year due to this safety risk. Lastly, parents and toy shoppers should note the risk that cracks and sharp edges can pose to children. For example, overinflated bike tires can lead to wheel rims cracking and injuring children.

To ensure that your tots have a fun time with their new toys, here are a few tips:

  • Check the label to make sure the toy is age appropriate – Keep toys for older children separate from those for younger children.
    Toss packaging after purchases – Plastic bags can suffocate children and they can choke on small packaging pieces.
  • Avoid choking hazards – Children under three should not play with toys smaller than the opening of a toilet paper roll. Watch out for small “button” batteries in toys which can pose a choking risk.
  • No high-powered magnets – When children swallow these magnets, they can cause ulcerations, infection and bowel blockage.
  • Listen to toys before purchasing – Some toys can produce noise at levels as loud as lawnmowers which can cause permanent hearing loss. If it sounds too loud to you, it’s probably too loud for a child.
  • Watch out for long cords – Keep ribbons and cords shorter than 12 inches to protect your child.
  • Check for toxic chemicals – You can find a list of chemical content ratings for over 5,000 products at
  • Is it too heavy? – Consider if the toy is heavy enough to hurt a child if it fell on them.
  • Check if the toy has been recalled – Double check that toys are safe by searching before buying it. For a list of recalled toys, that OSPIRG put together, click here.

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