In 2016, emergency rooms treated approximately 240,000 cases of toy-related injuries in the United States. By law, toy manufacturing companies and distributors must take steps to ensure the products they release to consumers are safe for use by the intended age group. They have a legal obligation to design, build, and produce toys that comply with federal safety regulations. When a manufacturer fails to obey these rules, it can result in toys that are inherently dangerous for children to use. Watch for the following common dangers in average children’s toys to keep your family safe.
Long Cords or Strings
The American Society for Testing and Materials provides a standard for toys with pull strings; however, the standard is not a legal requirement. It is a voluntary standard that toy companies can opt to use. The standard is that if a manufacturer intends a toy for children under 3 years old, the toy should not contain any attachments such as beads or knobs at the end of pull strings longer than 12 inches. Attachments can catch on the string to form a loop and create a strangulation hazard. If the pull cord is longer than 12 inches, parents should remove attachments from the cord.
Many children’s toys involve projectiles shot from devices. Projectile toys can range from simple wooden marshmallow guns to complex rocket launchers. Despite warning labels instructing children not to aim for the face or eyes, children still shoot projectiles that can seriously injure other children’s eyes and cause permanent vision loss. Injuries to the eyes and face from projectile toys can include retinal detachment, corneal abrasion, ulcers, traumatic cataracts, and bleeding inside the eye. Aim to buy toys that do not use projectiles or include chemicals or materials that can irritate the eyes.
Electric toys without proper design or construction can result in electric burns, electric shocks, and electrocution. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues regulations for electric toys to improve child safety. Toy manufacturers must take steps to reduce the risk of electrical injuries, including putting cautionary labels on the toy itself as well as the packaging. The toy company must house all electrical components of the toy in safe enclosures that common household tools cannot open. Heating elements must also contain supports to prevent electric shock.
Plastic Bags or Wrapping
Thousands of everyday children’s toys come in plastic bags or wrappings that could present a suffocation hazard to young children. All toys with suffocation hazards should contain warning labels on the packaging and the plastic bag that warn not to leave children unattended with the item, as well as warning children that the plastic is not a toy. If an item does not have these warning labels or the plastic is unreasonably dangerous for another reason, fatal suffocation could occur.
Many unsafe toys throughout history have injured and killed children due to lack of proper warning labels and marketing. All toys intended for children of a certain age group, such as 3 and older, must have obvious, clear labels stating so. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act makes it mandatory for toy companies to label products intended for children 3 to 5 that contain small parts. The label must state, “Warning: Choking Hazard – Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years.” If a manufacturer negligently fails to include this warning label, the toy is unreasonably dangerous for consumers.
Sharp Points and Edges
Puncture wounds, lacerations, and eye injuries can all arise from a child’s toy that has unreasonably sharp or pointy edges. All children under the age of 8 should not play with toys that have sharp points. Toys with potentially sharp elements should contain warning labels that state the intended age is above eight. Poor design, defective manufacture, and lack of proper marketing can result in children suffering lacerations or other injuries from sharp toys during playtime.