Are the toys on your holiday gift list safe for young children? One might think that the very presence of a toy on a store shelf would mean that it has made it through the toughest tests and scrutiny to ensure its safety. But too many years of product recalls and after-the-fact label warnings should remind us that this is not always the case.
"We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that's the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys," said Sean Doyle, a campaign organizer with the Connecticut branch of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG.)
PIRG recently released its annual Trouble in Toyland report highlighting this year's list of toys that might pose a danger to children. Topping the list are toys with toxic chemicals, small toys that are choking hazards, toys that could potentially damage hearing, and toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.
Here are some of the dangers you should keep an eye out for as you make your list and check it twice:
Lead, phthalates and other toxins. The report found a number of items on store shelves that contained high levels of phthalates, which are used in plastics, and toys with lead or chromium content above legal limits.
Safe buying tip: Look for the phthalate-free label on plastic toys, and avoid painted toys unless they're made in the United States or Europe.
Small parts. Toys with small parts are a choking hazard for children younger than 3.
Safe buying tip: If you're giving a gift to a baby or young toddler, make sure that all of the parts are too big to fit through a toilet paper roll. Anything smaller is considered a choking hazard.
Small magnets. Small powerful magnets are a danger to a child if swallowed. As far-fetched as it seems, this is a growing danger for young children.
Safe buying tip: Avoid giving toys with small magnets in them, no matter where they were produced.
Loud toys. Children's ears are more sensitive than adults' to loud noises. So some toys may pass standards for federal noise limits while still producing noises that may be damaging to young ears.
Safe buying tip: Avoid toys that make loud noises. Trust me, this will make everyone on your gift list happy.
Related on MNN: