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Blair Horner: Keeping The Holiday Season Safe For Children

Blair Horner
Blair Horner

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday shopping season.  It is a time when many adults look for gifts for children.  And while the holidays are a time for fun and giving, it is important that it be a safe time as well.

A recent survey of toys found some that posed health and safety threats to children.  The report identified toys recalled by the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from January 2015 to October 2016. For large items such as cars, when they get recalled, owners will usually be contacted immediately through VIN numbers. However, that’s not the case with toy recalls.

Some of the recalled toys that the researchers found were still available for sale at online stores include:

·         A toy glockenspiel which was recalled in February 2016 due to high levels of lead in the paint. If the paint is scraped off and ingested lead can cause adverse health effects.

·         A remote-controlled flying toy which was recalled in June 2016. The toy’s USB charging cord can overheat, posing a hazard.

·         A pencil case which contains two magnets that hold the case lid closed can detach, posing an ingestion hazard. If these two magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside a child's intestines and result in serious internal injuries.

It is illegal to sell a recalled product under CPSC rules. The authors of the report have notified the CPSC about these potentially illegal sales and have asked them to investigate these toys further and take appropriate action.

In addition to this call for an investigation, the report urged that the CPSC improve its recall effectiveness by:

·         Engaging in efforts to increase consumer and researcher awareness of the public hazard database SaferProducts.gov.

·         Aggressively seeking to increase recall effectiveness by making sellers agree to conduct more effective outreach campaigns that stress the real hazard posed, rather than simply promoting the purported good will of the firm.

·         Performing regular online sweeps checking for the availability of previously-recalled toys.

·         Holding companies reselling recalled products accountable, this will also send a message to others.

Of course, government oversight, while important, is not enough.  The report urged that parents and caregivers take steps to protect children from potential hazards. The report recommended that parents:

·         Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov.

·         Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf. Check the CPSC recall database at CPSC.gov before buying toys online.

·         Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at Saferproducts.gov.

Of course, the report only identified toys that had been previously recalled. Other hazards may exist.

To help consumer ensure that all toys are safe, the report’s authors offered some additional tips for parents and other consumers of toys: 

·         Review the recalled toys list in this report and compare it to toys in children’s toy boxes.

·         Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for older children are not left within reach of younger children who still put things in their mouths.

To get a copy of the report, you can view it on the website of the New York Public Interest Research Group at www.nypirg.org.

Smarter toy choices can help keep this holiday season safe.

Blair Horner is the Legislative Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.  They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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