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Toy dangers to avoid this holiday season

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Unsafe and potentially deadly toys continue to make their way to store shelves despite the efforts of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Therefore, parents must remain vigilant when they purchase toys for their children. In addition, parents should examine all toys their children receive for potential safety hazards.

Unfortunately, there is not a list of safe toys that parents can check. There are however, specific dangers parents can look for. Three of the most serious dangers are described below.

The number of injuries related to high-powered magnet sets continues to grow, according to the CPSC. When swallowed these magnets can cause serious injuries. If two or more magnets are swallowed, they can be pulled toward each other while inside a child's body, causing severe internal injuries. "We want parents to be aware of the danger associated with these innocent looking magnets," said former CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. The potential for serious injury and death if multiple magnets are swallowed demands that parents and medical professionals be aware of this hidden hazard and know how to treat a child in distress."

The risk posed by these magnets is not just from toys. Products sold to adults as “desk toys” and “stress relievers” often contain these high-powered magnets. The CPSC offers these tips regarding high-powered magnets:

  • keep small magnets away from young children who might swallow them
  • look out for loose magnet pieces - and regularly inspect toys and children's play areas for missing or dislodged magnets
  • if you suspect that magnets were swallowed, seek medical attention immediately
  • look for abdominal symptoms, such as abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • note that in x-rays multiple magnetic pieces may appear as a single object

Lead and other toxins
Exposure to lead can cause severe injuries, reports the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of lead poisoning don’t occur until after a child is exposed to harmful levels of lead. Federal laws limit the amount of lead and other chemicals that can be used in toys for health and safety reasons. Lead may be found in the paint or plastic of some toys. The risk of lead in toys is primarily from toys made in other countries, and toys handed down from older generations, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The only way to test for lead is through a certified testing laboratory. The CDC does not recommend home testing products because of reliability issues and other limitations.

Small parts
All toys with small parts should be kept away from young children who could swallow them. Parents should inspect any toys intended for young children for potential choking hazards including:

  • small pieces
  • small parts that could detach from the main toy
  • small marbles or other balls
  • latex balloons in a toy or alone
  • small toys that look like food.

Also keep an eye on toys belonging to older siblings and friends as there may be small parts in puzzles, games and other toys.

In addition to small toys, some batteries pose a significant health risk to children. Small round “button batteries” can cause internal chemical burns if swallowed. These batteries are found in a lot of items including toys, remote controllers, watches and, calculators.

For more information on toy safety parents can watch the video that accompanies this article. Additional information is available in the Trouble in Toyland 2013 report of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and from the CPSC's report For Kids' Sake Think Toy Safety. Parents can also check the CPSC's website to find out if a particular toy was recalled and to get additional information on toy safety.


Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Public Interest Research Group



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